poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘old diary

‘Something the Sundial Said’ — a new cozy mystery

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Now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon – the next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series: ‘Something the Sundial Said.‘ This book follows the adventures of Kaye and her family after they buy a new house in rural Nova Scotia.


sundial and lupins paperback


In 1995, Kaye and her young family attend a country auction, never dreaming the stone sundial in the garden is the site of a century-old murder. They end up buying the house and property but someone else buys the sundial. Then Kaye finds a diary written in 1880, chronicling the days leading up to the murder.

When Kaye reads the diary, she decides to search for the sundial and return it to the property. And she follows clues in the diary to discover who shot Rodney in the sundial garden.

At every corner, she is outmaneuvered by a local genealogist who is anxious to obtain the diary and keep information damaging to her family hidden. The woman will go to ridiculous lengths to obtain the diary, even stalking Katie, Kaye’s teenaged daughter. As Kaye discovers someone is entering her house at night to find the diary, she wonders who she can trust.


If you love cozy mysteries, this book is for you!

To get your copy of the book, click here.

For people in the Fredericton area, I will be launching the book in April.


cover SSS scaled


All my best,


Written by jane tims

March 10, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Something the Sundial Said

with 2 comments

The new book in my Kaye Eliot Mystery Series will be released in a couple of days.  Something the Sundial Said features the main characters from the first book How Her Garden Grew. The Eliot family, Kaye and Michael, and their children, Katie and Matthew, have moved to a new home and discovered a new mystery to solve.


The Eliots are a typical family: they have trouble communicating at times; they squabble; they keep secrets from one another. But they also work together when they face danger and they love to go on adventures together in Nova Scotia’s countryside.


As in the first book, I have included an inanimate ‘character’. In How Her Garden Grew, it was the Grinning Tun, a seashell from tropical seas. In Something the Sundial Said, yes, you guessed it, it’s a sundial.  After the Eliots move into their new home, they discover the sundial in the garden is missing. And they find out the sundial was the setting for a murder a century ago. Of course they are going to search for it and try and bring it back home.


sundial and lupins paperback


Sundials are one of the many ways we have used to tell time. Using the shadow cast by the sun, a sundial counts the hours. Kaye and her kids find lots of sundials in their search for the Carmelwood sundial …


At the end of the path, before it exited to a back yard, were three sundials. Odd to keep, indoors, lawn furniture that craved the sunlight.

The first was made of plastic. The circular, numbered dial perched on a curvy pedestal and the gnomon was a triangle, moulded to look like iron.

“A no-sun sundial.” Even Matt was not impressed.

The next was made of metal, perhaps copper. The flat plate was made to sit on a wall or railing. The designer had tried to appeal to a wide range of tastes and ethnicities. The outer rim was marked in Roman numerals. The inner rim was a decorative chain of Chinese characters. Beside the gnomon was a moveable dial showing the sun. In the small remaining space were words. “Others may tell of storms and showers. I only mark your sunny hours.” Matt was beginning to read and I sounded out the words for him.

The next sundial was made of grey marble with a wrought iron gnomon. It was perched on a slender metal stand with clawed bird’s feet. The caption on this one read “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”

I looked at the three sundials. Our only clues to the Carmelwood sundial were the brief glimpse we’d had and the small grey blur in the oil painting, but I was certain none of the three was our sundial.


I hope you enjoy Something the Sundial Said. Look for it here early in March.


cover SSS scaled


All my best,


Written by jane tims

February 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

growing and gathering – years and seasons

with 14 comments

As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time.  I am in the revision stage.  This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’.  I will worry over it and list the last things to be done.  I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.

The project will be over, but there will still be work to do.   I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.

Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project.  I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.

In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward.  Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.

A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods.  Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’.  In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up.  Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on.  But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.

This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison.  I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.

Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’.  For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript.  I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.

I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use.  I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries.  So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!



Old Man’s Beard     


Usnea subfloridana Stirt.


you and I

years ago

forced our ways

bent through the thicket

of lichen and spruce



caught in your beard

and we laughed


us with stooped backs

and grey hair?


found a game trail

a strawberry marsh

wild berries

crushed into sedge

stained shirts


and fingers


dusted with sugar

washed down with cold tea

warmed by rum



an old woman


lost her way in the spruce

found beard

caught in the branches

and cried



Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

from the pages of an old diary – words and phrases

with 12 comments

My great-aunt’s diaries are very easy to read.  Her handwriting is neat and her words, though brief, clearly convey her meaning.  Occasionally, she uses unfamiliar words.  What do you think these words mean?  My answers, assisted by the Internet, are given below…



‘silence cloth’




‘snow pudding’



April 18, 1957                She washed the curtains and ‘tidies’ from the upstairs rooms.

The Free Online Dictionary defines a ‘tidy’ as ‘a decorative protective covering for the arms or headrest of a chair.’  ‘Tidies’ could also have been her name for the hold-backs on curtains, or the small linen cloths used to cover dressers and other surfaces.

March 12, 1957             She bought a ‘silence cloth’ for the table ($2.00)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a ‘silence cloth’ as ‘a pad (as of flannel or felt) used under a tablecloth.’  This cloth would have protected the table from scratches and marks from dishes.

July 31, 1956                She and her husband sat out on the ‘pizza’

This was a frequent entry.  I think it was her word for ‘piazza’ and referred to the front porch or a small sitting area in their side-yard.

Feb. 1, 1957                   Her Red Cross group made a ‘layette’ for a local woman and her baby.

Wikipedia says this is a collection of clothing for a newborn and can include many items, including sleepwear, cloth diapers, wash cloths and receiving blankets.

June 29, 1967               She received ‘snaps’ of their anniversary party.

I know this one, but some in the digital generation may not.  It is short for ‘snapshot’ and refers to processed photographs.

December 18, 1967    She made a ‘snow pudding’ and took it to a neighbour who had a sore tongue.

I am not a cook, so many recipe names are not familiar to me.  I looked at the Internet for a modern recipe and found the following:

Snow Pudding

2 T. unflavored gelatin
1/4 C. cold water
1 C. boiling water
1/2 C. lemon juice
1 C. sugar
3 egg whites

soften the gelatin in cold water;

dissolve the gelatin in boiling water;

add lemon juice and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens;

add stiffly beaten egg whites;

beat until the mixture ‘stacks’ (holds firm peaks).

The finished dessert looks like snow, hence the name.  I don’t know if using raw egg whites is OK today, but the equivalent from a carton of egg whites would be safe to use.


©  Jane Tims  2012


two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

from the pages of an old diary – cost of living

with 6 comments

Some of the most interesting entries in my great-aunt’s diaries concern the cost of living.  She often recorded the prices of food, goods or services they obtained.  I read through her entries for 1954, 1955, 1957 and 1967 and noted some of these.  By comparing the amounts for the same items in the 1950s and 1967, you can see that prices were on the rise!

 Date  Item  Cost
 Nov. 22, 1954  chicken  $3.00 per chicken
 Nov. 10, 1967  chicken  haircut (barter system)
 June 30, 1955  eggs  $0.40 per dozen
 Dec. 14, 1957  eggs  $0.50 per dozen
 July 12 and July 14, 1967  strawberries  $0.35 per box
 July 19, 1967  strawberries  $1.40 for 4 boxes
 Oct. 22, 1967  oysters  $2.00 per pint
 Nov. 17, 1967  box of chocolates  $1.29 per box
 June 5, 1957  lobster supper at church  $1.00
 June 7, 1967  lobster supper (community function)  $1.50
 November 1, 1957  turkey dinner (community function)  $1.00
 October 25, 1967  turkey dinner (community function)  $1.25
 Feb. 13, 1954  Valentine Tea at church hall  $0.60
 June 22, 1957  tea in church hall  $0.50
 July 9, 1957  show (movie theatre)  $0.50
 May 7, 1957  T.V. from Simpsons  $269.95
 March 12, 1957  ‘silence’ cloth for table  $2.00
 Sept. 10, 1954  new shoes  $6.95
 April 23, 1957  black Oxfords (White Cross)  $9.95
 June 14, 1954  shingles for barn  $50.18
 May 17, 1967  house shingled  $163.00
 May 17, 1954  wood for stove  $40.00 (probably total for year)
 July 8, 1954  hair permanent  $4.00
 Dec. 16, 1957  hair permanent  $3.25
 Sept. 20, 1967  hair permanent  $6.00
 March 13, 1957  tailoring – a ‘Black Watch’    skirt  $4.94 for material and sewing
 Sept. 6-10, 1967  vacation accommodation (room in house)  $8.00 per night
 Sept. 6-10, 1967  vacation accommodation (motel)  $14.00 per couple



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 12, 2012 at 7:17 am

from the pages of an old diary – visiting

with 6 comments

One of the most obvious activities in my great-aunt’s diaries is ‘visiting’.  Almost every day brought visitors and visits to family or friends. 

In 1957, there are only 30 days when my great-aunt did not either visit or receive visitors and several of these were when extremely stormy weather kept everyone inside.

Visits often involved food.  On February 6, 1957, my great-aunt wrote the following: ‘I had I. and M. to tea. pot [potato] scallop, cold ham, tomatoes, pickles and jelly. coffee rolls. dough-nuts, lemon sq.  [squares] and fruit.’  Wow!

Many of the visits were between family members.  I love to see entries about visits with my grandmother and my uncle and aunt.  They lived in Dartmouth but often came to ‘the old home place’ for weekends.  My great-aunt had a definite opinion about their tendency to stay at the old home instead of with her.  On April 19, 1957, she writes ‘K. and J.  came this p.m. up to their own house and stayed all night.  was too cold and damp to stay in’.

Other visits she recorded were from my own family.  We lived in Alberta and almost every summer we came to Nova Scotia to visit Mom’s and Dad’s families (see posts under the category ‘on my grandfather’s farm’).  In 1957, she records our leaving for Medicine Hat, when I was three years old (August 25, 1957).  Once, when I was a teenager, we visited her and she gave me the bracelet shown in the drawing below.  It has a motif of oak leaves and acorns and I cherish it still.

Other visits were with friends.  Some of the visits had to do with watching T.V. at other people’s houses. After May 7, 1957, when my great-aunt and great-uncle got their own T.V., people would come to her house to watch! 



curtains, freshly pressed

                -response to a diary entry for October 2, 1957


Wed  nice fine. I did a big wash.

washed – my kitchen curtains did them up.

Katie M. here all p.m

–          A.M.W.



               fine day says Katie hard to say goodbye to September.

I rock and nod, beyond

her shoulder, curtains, freshly pressed

hung this morning

               cold, yesterday. more like November.

light plaits shadow

green window glass, re-imagined

               last May seems a minute ago.  at the Festival.  that girl with the blue dress

               should have won.

first autumn days

and an open casement

breeze busy at the curtain’s edge

               time flies. almost four years now since he died.

the white fabric looks well

against varnished wood

               we missed you at Red Cross. numbers are down.

blue sky and oak trees, bare of leaves

twigs slash rectangles of window


I rock and ask her

did you know?

last evening, L. had a son

8 pounds, 3 ounces



© Jane Tims  2012

Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

February 17, 2012 at 6:53 am

from the pages of an old diary – spring cleaning

with 11 comments

My great-aunt’s diary shows she cleaned her house with regularity.  She had a big two-story house on the main street of the village, with a porch on the front.  On the main floor the rooms included a kitchen, pantry, storeroom, dining room, small front room and sitting room.   There was also a ‘little porch’ and a ‘little entry’ where the wood box was kept.  Upstairs she had the main bedroom, a ‘spare room’, a bathroom, and other rooms, joined by a hall and a ‘little hall’.    The house had a cellar, and an out-house.

Each year, she punctuated her regular cleaning with a vigorous bout of spring cleaning, beginning in late March and lasting through May.  She also did another round of ‘doing up curtains’ and ‘cleaning storm windows’ in October.  Her spring cleaning was methodical, involved a room or a couple of smaller rooms each day, and went from floor to ceiling.  Painting was included as part of the process. 

In 1957, the diary entries related to spring cleaning are: 

Mar 26             ‘cleaned my kitchen ceiling walls’

April 1             ‘I painted some in pantry… I washed dining room ceiling.’

April 2             ‘I painted some this a.m.’

April 3             ‘I finished painting the pantry.’

April 5             ‘I cleaned china closet. linen drawers.’ 

                              (I have one item from her linens, an embroidered table runner with her initial)

April 8             ‘I painted one rocking chair.’

April 15           ‘I cleaned the small front room.’

April 16           ‘I cleaned sitting-room.’

April 17           ‘I cleaned dining-room.’

April 18           ‘I did the dining room curtains up also the tidies in rooms. went over the house. ’

April 27           ‘we took the storm windows off cleaned windows on the out side. 

                               I also cleaned ½ store room.’

May 1               ‘I finished store-room cleaned bath room.’

May 6               ‘I did the spare room  washed curtains got them up. ’

May 7               ‘I wash[ed] my bedroom curtains this a.m did them up this eve.’

May 8               ‘I cleaned the back front rooms upstairs. washed ceilings did the floors.’

May 14             ‘cleaned the bathroom little hall’

May 15             ‘cleaned hall stairs.’

May 21             ‘I cleaned little porch.’

May 23             ‘I cleaned the cellar  

                               painted window sills upstairs windows wood-box down stairs in little entry.  

                               also cleaned out-house.’

House cleaned, she turned her attention to the garden.  On May 20, she wrote ‘I planted my glads dahlias.’  and on May 25, her husband made and painted a new flower box for her.





bits of cloud spellbound

by ceiling

they mesmerize

and float, dust appended

to spider’s web, thought appended

to tongue, nothing built on nothingness

rumours banished by a broom


© Jane Tims 2012

a linen table runner, embroidered with scalloped edges and her initial, made by my great-aunt

Written by jane tims

February 8, 2012 at 6:38 am

from the pages of an old diary – the weather

with 8 comments

For any given date, the first entry in my great-aunt’s diary is a note about the weather.  Weather was important to my great-aunt.  It dictated what could be done during the day, if a wash could be put on the line, if she could go out walking to visit family and friends, and if a fire had to be kept going.   

She described the weather in various ways:  ‘nice fine day’, not very cold’, ‘dark day’, ‘fine very cold’.  Sometimes it just says ‘nice day’. 

Bad weather was sometimes called a ‘dirty cold day’ (April 11, 1957). 

Some days were described in a bit of detail.  On September 23, 1957, she wrote, ‘fine in the morning very windy cloudy in late p.m.’    On March 20, 1957, she wrote ‘a big snow storm on   drifting and blowing.’  March 21, 1957, the first day of spring, says ‘roads all blocked still snowing some’.  

Christmas Day, December 25, 1957, was ‘quite cold, a few snowflurries’.

On November 26, 1957, it was so cold, she wrote ‘I washed, clothes froze before I could get them on the line’.

It might be interesting to compare the actual weather records for 1957 with the weather she recorded!



September storm

                -response to a diary entry for September 5, 1957


                                             Thurs. rained hard last nt [night] also thunder and lightning. 

                                             Dad took car up to L.S. to fix.  I made dough-nuts [and] 

                                             biscuits, did a small wash.  went up street.

                                                                                       –          A.M.W.


last night dismal, thunder wobbled

the windows, a leak

in the pantry, the rain in curtains

across the yard,  forked lightning

the clothes pole vulnerable

car would not start, the driveway in runnels

freezer and the day’s baking

at the mercy of indecisive




© Jane Tims  2012

socks and mittens knit by my grandmother (my great-aunt’s sister)

Copyright Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

February 6, 2012 at 6:38 am

from the pages of an old diary – words about women’s work

with 11 comments

I have been thinking a lot about ‘women’s domestic work’ these days.  This not only because I do some housework myself from time to time (!), but because I am taking a History course – “Canadian Women’s History”. 

One of the assignments for the course is to read a woman’s diary or journal and learn about what life was like for her through her words.  I am lucky to have a set of six five-year diaries from my great-aunt who lived in Nova Scotia and I have decided to look at her diaries for my project.  The diaries cover the years from 1944 to 1972 .  Since I was born in 1954, I have chosen 1954 and 1957 as years to study.

Her diary for a particular year is a simple record of her daily activities.  Simple, but what a lot of information is found in a few lines of text!

I have reviewed all of her entries for the year 1957 and find she covers the following topics in her entries:

  1. the weather
  2. people who visited
  3. people she visited
  4. housework done (she includes her husband’s work around the house)
  5. community work done
  6. community events (such as funerals or weddings)
  7. letters written or received
  8. special trips
  9. unexpected events (such as the car breaking down)
  10. family health

One thing I notice about her diaries, is her faithfulness in making an entry every day for 29 years!  So many diaries I have begun fizzle after the first month or so of writing! 

Another aspect is the value of her words.  Over 50 years later, I can still find helpful advice in the way she did her work and the emphasis she put on participating in her community.  I can find specific information of the birth dates of relatives or the date our family arrived for our summer vacation in a particular year.  In addition, for anyone interested in the daily life of women in the 20th century, a set of diaries like hers is an invaluable resource and window into history.

Over the next few posts, I am going to look at various aspects of the daily life of my great-aunt and consider how similar or different life is for me today.

two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Copyright  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

February 4, 2012 at 7:38 am

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