Tuesday, December 6, 2022

December Letter, 2022


Good afternoon all - Checking in again, finally.

First up, an apology. I have not had much desire or interest in creating 'new work' over the past nine months since mum died. To be sure there's been grief, but also, settling her - and the residuals of dad's estate - has been very time consuming. 

Not only is my parents beautiful centuries-old farmhouse for sale now, but we (my brothers and me) have had to empty it. After 70 years of accumulation and family living, that's no easy task!

Stoneacres, the well-known house and property, has been chock-a-block with fascinating remnants of the bygone decades. Not only did we jettison dad's 40-year old electric jig-saw (made in Guelph, Ontario), but we've tossed toys, school clothing and home-making artifacts from our youth. We've also chucked numerous domestic devices mum accrued over the years, (like 3 ironing boards in various states of collapse - as well as metallic sock and kid-glove stretchers!)

In truth, it's been a somewhat painful process. Sure, those items are of little use or interest today. However, they do bring back loads of memories of a somewhat blissful and carefree childhood ... 

We did have a happy home as youngsters.

I was looking through mum's cookbook cupboard the other day. Nestled above the stove, those pine shelves hold an amazing compendium of books, magazine and articles she saved. They succinctly document her transformation from a dutiful, meticulous and ambitious 'housewife' to an independent and 'liberated' female who was finally 'released' from kitchen drudgery by the invention of the dishwasher and microwave oven. That's not to say, mum was a 'woman's liber'. She wasn't. But, inherent in the cultural evolution of the 60s, 70s and 80s, she went through her own feminine evolution. Over time, she became separated from the repetitive and dull tasks that had previously defined her principal 'role' within our family as 'the cook'.

When first married, mum brought the best of continental training to her kitchen. She'd been trained as a teen in the 'Domestic Sciences' at the Atholl Crescent School in Edinburgh, Scotland. (She won Honours in baking, linen repair and monogram stitching ...) Her first hand-written recipe book in the cupboard meticulously catalogued the early dinners she prepared for her new husband and herself as a newly-arrived war-bride to Canada. Entertaining 8 to 12 friends over busy social weekends was not uncommon. Her handwriting at that time was precise, neat and small. There's also a curious self-congratulatory tone in those early written recipes. Mum loved entertaining with semi-exotic souffles, spiced beef and 'cocktails'. After five years of war-rationing and deprivation, they were living up the good life in their mid-to-late 20s - and were proud of it. She'd write, "Very Good!!"

By the 1960s, after her third child, mum's recipe books transformed into a filing card system with quick and easy to prepare healthy meals for us all. Porridge recipes, chicken pot pies and hearty lamb stews. Her handwriting evolved too. It was looser, freer, more open - yet decidedly firmer and more mature. The entertaining novelty had worn off. She knew what she was doing and she just efficiently recorded what worked and what didn't.

Claw bathtub abandoned in orchard circa 1980s
 Overall, Mum was a very good cook. 

 I especially remember her delectable soups. She made a variety of delicious cold soups - from an exotic tomato-sipper consomme to a garden-grown cold and creamy asparagus. 

She worked hard in the kitchen - and she fed us all very well. 

When dad died, she began to lose interest in cooking. The last recorded recipe - in her by now strong and definitive hand - was from 2001: the year he died. It was for special Christmas cheese cookies she knew he liked. I could find nothing else - no notes, no cards, no clippings of any food that interested her after that. If family were visiting, she'd buy prepared frozen casseroles and toss a salad. Otherwise, she preferred a light diet of eggs cooked in a variety of different ways, raw vegetables, periodic fillets of fish and her favourite dessert, rice pudding with dollop of Lyle's Golden Syrup. And tea, always lots and lots of tea ...

... I was going to add more photos to this post, but haven't transferred over the images yet. I was just conscious I hadn't written in a while, and I wanted to let you all know, I've not forgotten or given up. I've just been very, very busy - sorting, packing & sorting through the rich legacy mum & dad left us. 

When I get the photos done, I'll load them in. Until then - 

Season's Very Best to You All. - Eat, Drink & Be Merry!

with nothing but Good Cheer for the New Year!

- mlh - 


Sunday, June 26, 2022

End of an Era: A Tribute to Mum

In mid-February of this year, my dear old mum died of natural causes. She was in her 96th year. By all accounts, she was holding up pretty well. But continued public and private restrictions re: COVID greatly curtailed her social interaction with those she loved most - her family and dear friends. 

Mum's engagement photo
During those two years of imposed isolation at the farm with limited  care-taking staff: in winter, we would gesture through the glass door, blowing kisses and holding up signs. In summer, through the screen door, we wore masks and gesticulated wildly. In the spring and fall, she would station herself at the back door wrapped in a blanket, so we could mouth our words to her. But in the end, it just wasn't enough. She was basically 'cut off' from us - her family. Personally, I believe it was this, the 'social isolation' from those she loved most, that did her in ...

Mum, by nature, a Gemini, was a very social creature. She LOVED entertaining - and being entertained. She always was the first to have a 'good story'. She loved to amuse others and make others laugh. 

She was also a phenomenal organizer. Over the years, she devoted herself to charity organizations, large and small. She was constantly giving, giving, giving - in order to make life better for others.

Mum, as a child in Dar-es-Salaam

 Over the past few months, I have been at the farm sorting through her things. For one so charitable and social, it is astounding how private she really was ...

Early photos of her life - before us - reveal a rare 'social exoticism' few would understand or even appreciate today. 

Mum grew up in colonial East Africa, the first born of a Scottish lawyer. Her childhood home was the former German Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. That house was massive. 

Multiple images of mum with assorted house-help paint a striking picture of ease, prestige and privilege. Yet, mum only spoke of those early years with great warmth and affection. Ali, the head house man, her personal favourite, was her constant companion and, she always said, her friend. He taught her to converse in Swahili. (Periodically, even in her 90s, mum would drop in a phrase she learned from her childhood.)

One year, Ali carved a foot-high wooden soldier for her - to protect her on her journey through life ...

At the farm, decades later, that little foot soldier held open the door of my parents bedroom. 

When mum finally died, as was her wish, the little soldier, with his tattered, worn-out military cap, was placed in the coffin beside her. 

I never really understood that childhood connection until recently.


At eight, mum was shipped off to boarding school, (literally, by ship around the Cape of Good Hope.) From there she was shipped off again to England. 

During the Second World War, her father was involved with munitions and they re-settled in war-time London. 

When she, at seventeen, met dad, on shore-leave in England, it was love at first sight. They maintained a loving correspondence while he continued to roam and fight across Northern Europe in a tank. Their tender, youth-filled love-letters reflect that tumultuous near-forgotten era. 

Mum and dad were married in Edinburgh on her eighteenth birthday in 1945. 

Luther and Mary Margaret Holton

As a Canadian war-bride, mum's adjustment to a her new life in Canada - so far from all that she had known - was a bit bumpy at the start. No more metropolitan cities, no house servants, no more diplomatic privileges. 

Life after the war was earnest for most.

After several years in an shoe-box apartment, then a Hamilton town house, they bought a run-down farm house in Halton County, with no water or electricity. (Mum always said they bought it because it had stunning century-old Persian lilacs out-front.) 

Then, for the greater part of 70 years, they turned that rambling property into their dream home. Our home. 

Looking at the early photos of 'how-it-was' to 'what-it-has-become' is kind of mind-blowing. They both worked - and played - HARD to make it better for themselves, and for us, their children. They sacrificed, they scrimped, they saved, they invested. They did this - and much, much more - to create a 'good home' for us all. And, clearly, none of it was ever 'easy' ... 

Well done Mum! - Well done.  

We miss you. -- Every single day. 

Mum, masked, in her 96th year.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Greetings from Canadian Artist & Author, MLHolton

'Good Vibrations' by MLHolton, acrylic on canvas, 6'x20", 2021

Ok, 2022, here we come ....

... I painted the above, 'GOOD VIBRATIONS', at the tail end of 2021, to send to you all ... 2021 was, without a doubt, a very difficult pandemic year.

With growing proof the initial 'COVID19 virus' was man-made, we are now beholden to 'for-profit' Big Pharma to 'save us' from the mutating variants with more experimental pharmacology ... Talk about a perfect storm!!!

Yet, as long as COURAGE and HOPE remain, we CAN STOP the intentional, (or accidental), deployment of genetically-modified, gain-of-function viruses designed - for no other purpose - than bio-warfare.**

Sensible and compassionate human beings MUST stand-up for future generations against this reckless, unnatural and heavily-subsidized wickedness. -- What to do? Start by signing this ADVOCACY PETITION. Then, please, pass it on through your social media networks.


In other news ...

I'm very warmed by the positive response to my new short story ebook collection, STICKS and STONES released last fall. Originally written to offer solace to attentive readers during these troubled times, it is a very good introduction to the way - and why - I write. 

Set primarily in Canada, the stories explore delicate, yet deliberate, human interactions within families - between children, parents, adults and seniors. STICKS and STONES is now available as a paperback.

... It is my hope that the short stories will lead readers to the "epic" tri-family saga,TRILLIUM, set in the beautiful Niagara wine region ...

... and/or ... the 2020 Edition of The Gilded Beaver, a "well-crafted" 'faction' about an extraordinary Canadian fine furniture design commission for a wily Toronto-based financier.

Both novels are available in ebooks or paperbacks. TRILLIUM is now a stellar 14.5 hour audiobook - (best via iTunes!)

So, that’s it for now. :)

My plan this year includes more painting, writing and thinking about us all ... Trust me, that's plenty.

Stay Safe, Sensible & STAND UP!

Margaret - LINDSAY - Holton

Canadian. Artist & Author.  Proudly serving CANADADA since 1975. 

p.s. ATTN: Global CO-PRODUCERS: My 'pitch package' for the 9-part series, based on the award-winning, well-loved, Niagara-centric novel, TRILLIUM is ready to go! - Please contact me for a review copy. - Think interwoven Irish, Italian, Mexican, German & Canadian family dynamics playing out on two very different vineyards. A global Win-Win!

- - - 
**  AUXILIARY LINK via independent journalist Glen Greenwald