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Bruce's Blog || Just sayin'. . .

Lucky Fox Snack Co.

Posted on August 05, 2015 by Kara Cousins

We had the pleasure of chatting with Lucky Fox Snack Co.'s General Manager, Kent, about the company's exciting beginning!

Tell us about Lucky Fox Snack Co.?

Lucky Fox Snack Co. is an artisan style PEI food company dedicated to producing handcrafted potato chips and gourmet caramel corn.   Our snacks are made in small batches, inspired by a local culinary flare and named after a true Island symbol – the Fox.  We are proud to use PEI russet potatoes and PEI non-GMO canola oil, and we intend on continuing to add more local ingredients in our recipes in the coming years. 


Where did the idea for Lucky Fox come from?

 The owners have been involved in food and tourism businesses all their working lives and had recently sold the Sandbox Pub and Eatery. Based on research on trends and looking at what we don’t do on PEI, they realized the obvious wasn’t being done -  we grow over 90,000 acres of potatoes each year but there was no one on PEI making chips! After a trip to Chicago and St. Louis touring similar businesses, they came home with an idea, started working with Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and the rest is history.


What does a day at the Lucky Fox look like? 

 As this is the first season, every day is slightly different. If chips are being made, the first staff arrive at 7am and the first chips are being made by 8am and continue until 6pm. Popcorn usually starts between 7 and 8am and goes until 6pm as well. Packaging takes place in the afternoon and evening. The retail store opens daily from 10pm to 8pm so the goal is to have either production or packaging take place while the store is open.



When it comes to making food, what are you at Lucky Fox most passionate about?

Making great food. Our first production runs of chips were getting good reviews but not getting rave reviews. So, we made some tweaks to our process to make a chip unlike others out there. Now, we regularly get the comment, “those are the best chips I’ve ever tried” – that’s what gets our staff excited about going to work every day.


How long does it take to make a batch of chips and popcorn?

A batch of chips takes under 15 minutes and popcorn varies depending on the flavour – savoury popcorn (White Cheddar Dill or other flavours) take 5 minutes while caramel corn and Island Mix take almost 20.


Tell us about where your potatoes and canola oil come from/your relationship with these local farmers?

Our potatoes come from Keenan Farms in Souris and a large portion of canola for our oil is grown by Gerard Mol in Kinkora and pressed by Nature’s Crop in Kensington.  Our relationship with these suppliers is developing as the business grows.

(The Keenan's)


What makes Lucky Fox Snack Co. special? 

The entire package makes them special – we use great products, a unique process, talented staff, great tasting flavourings developed by Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and are packaged in a craft-style package without any preservatives.




How's the initial reaction been from Islanders and visitors when they visit your store/taste you products?

Excellent. People want to support local products but when they taste the chips or Island Mix, they love the product and are often back for more.



What's your role at Lucky Fox? How did you become involved in this business?

I am the General Manager. I have known the owners for quite a while (one of them was my first manager when I washed dishes at Pizza Delight when I was 15) and they approached me in December, 2014 about joining the team. I loved the concept from the beginning and understood the opportunity so was excited to be part of the team.


What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs/business managers?

Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t focus on what went wrong until after the problem is solved – look forward, plan for the future and be flexible.


What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you? 

If you do something special making your products, tell your customers. They want to be part of the process and love knowing how their food was made.


What's in store for Lucky Fox in the coming months? 

We’re looking at a few ideas right now – a major grocery chain and ideas for the holiday season are the next on the list.


Where can folks buy your products?

 At over 40 locations across PEI -


Anything else you'd like to add?

A big thanks to the local companies that took a chance on us for carrying our products. The local network is strong on PEI and is one of the main reasons we have so much optimism about the future of Lucky Fox and PEI.

Jaime Lee Mann

Posted on June 30, 2015 by Kara Cousins



At a Glance 

-Grew up in a little house by the sea in Lower Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island

-The eldest of four children

-Her imagination and her little sister were her best friends

-Spent everyday playing on the shore and in the winter, the "enchanted forest"

-Started her first business at age 9, making jewelry out of bits of driftwood and sea shells she found on the beach


Have you always been a writer? Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. 

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since I was about eight years old, but I didn’t think that being a writer in PEI would be the best way to earn a living. So I followed a crooked path after high school, studying entrepreneurship, dabbling in university courses, earning a diploma in office management, but always with the belief in my heart that I should be writing. When I was expecting my first child, I used my maternity leave to figure out a way to earn an income while staying at home with my child. I started my own business as a virtual assistant which eventually transitioned into a copywriting business as I’d been repeatedly hired for writing projects. I carved out my own little niche as a freelance writer to help me earn money while I dabbled in my own creative writing. Eventually I would team up with a very talented editor (Christine Gordon Manley) and we combined our writing and editing skills to form a full-service copy shop called Manley Mann Media. We’ve been in operation since 2010 and have a lot of fun working together. So I am employed by my own company by day, and in my downtime, I work on my own books. I was fortunate enough to have Blue Moon Publishers sign me for a novel series and a children’s picture book. After working as a ghostwriter for many years, in December of 2014, I got to see my own name on the cover of a book I’d written. That’s it in a nutshell :)


When it comes to writing/storytelling, what are you most passionate about? 

I am passionate about telling stories in general, and each story has a different goal, and something within it that I’m passionate about. But overall, I would have to say that I am very passionate about forcing readers to look at things differently and to expand their imaginations. 


Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to becoming an author? 

I have many people who’ve inspired me to follow my dreams; my parents, my eternally supportive husband Jason, our children, my sister, my dear friend and editor, Christine. I’ve never had anyone tell me, “You can’t be a writer.” I’ve always had support and I’ve always been told that I have a gift with words that should be shared. I will, however, never forget Island author (and my own creative writing teacher) Hugh MacDonald telling me in high school that I had to write for a living. Those words made a big impression on me and I never let go of them.


Reflecting back on it, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you experienced as a writer? 

The moment when Heidi from Blue Moon Publishers said she wanted to publish my picture book, and also wanted a multi-book series of children’s novels. That was huge. Opening my first shipment of novels was a moment I will never forget. Seeing my book listed among the top ten list of Amazon kindle sales in my category. The first time I was asked by a young reader’s mom if I would pose for a photo with her son. Spotting my book on the shelf at Indigo. Getting my first 5 star review. Every time a child hands me their well-worn copy of Elora of Stone to see if I’ll sign it for them. I’m experiencing a new exciting moment every single day.


Tell us about The Legend of Rhyme Series. What's the inspiration behind this novel? 

The Legend of Rhyme series was inspired by a bedtime story I made up for my children when they were about three and five years old… four years ago. My girls love being read to, but they really love when I make up stories for them, like my own dad did when I was a kid. This one night I was going on zero sleep and I was making up a bunch of nonsense about a little girl named Margaret who always did what she was told. But one day she was going through the woods and she tripped and fell and reached out to a tree to steady her but the tree wasn’t firm. The tree sucked her in. and when she woke up, she was surrounded by a world of magic. Fairies were flying through the air, and it went on like that. Every night they wanted to hear more “Margaret Story” so eventually I wrote it down. The Legend of Rhyme is based on that simple story but blown out to fill a series.


Prince Edward Island is a rather  whimsical place to live. How does living here influence your work?

There is magic in the air here. I grew up on the water and was inspired by the sea every single day, whether it was covered in ice in January, angry and gray during an October storm, or sparkling blue on a summer day. I’m hugely inspired by nature and I do my best writing in the out of doors. 


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Always keep writing. If you feel in your heart that you were meant to be a writer, you were. Also, if you don’t quite think you have what it takes to be a writer, find a great editor. Anyone can be a great writer with a great editor.


What's in store for you in the coming months? 

I’m in the revision stage at the moment for the third novel in the Legend of Rhyme series, Teagan of Tomorrow. That should be published in September or October. I’m also finishing up the outline of the fourth novel in the series, which I hope to have a final first draft of in the next couple of months. But I’m very excited about my upcoming series launch at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company on July 4th. We’ll have pie and I’ll be doing some reading from the novels. I’ll be back at the Preserve Company a couple more times through the summer and I’m so excited to read in such a perfectly enchanting spot. I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple of readings in Halifax or Moncton this summer, too, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. I also hope to get to the beach a few times. Oh and I am working on some ghostwriting projects which are going to eat up a large chunk of time, too. All good things! 


What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

This is a very difficult question. I am surrounded by kindness all the time. I have had kind employers, kind clients, kind friends. I think the most kind random act I’ve experienced would have been many years ago when I was just a teenager, driving from Souris to Charlottetown. At some point around Dunstaffnage, one of the front tires came off my car. The gentleman who owns Ellis Towing came to my rescue and fixed me up at no charge, if I just promised to take his tire back to him when we got it replaced. That act did stay with me as a purely kind thing for a stranger to do for a shaken up and scared young woman.


Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

I have so many wonderful people in my life, and I thank them all the time. But if it weren’t for Heidi Sander at Blue Moon Publishers taking a chance on me, there would be no Legend of Rhyme series. She is a wonderful mentor, a generous heart, and a good friend. I am ever grateful for her friendship and her trust in my talent.



Follow Jaime online:




Novels are available at: & Indigo Charlottetown, Amazon, Coles in Summerside, A Good Book in Montague



The Music Man- Mike Pendergast

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Bruce MacNaughton

At a Glance:

-Prince Edward Island-born with Irish Acadian background

-His siblings all sing & play instruments

-Parents were both school principals

-Attended Westisle Composite High & studied archaeology at the Univeristy of Calgary

-Husband to Carolyn & Dad of Molly & Shane

-Coaches basketball and writes plays on the side

-Currently re-reading "The Bank Slate" by Steven Pinker

-Lives in Tracadie Cross & is the choir director at St Bonaventure's Church

-His preschool audiences know him as the "Music Man" 

-Has released two children's albums, four traditional music albums, & two gospel albums


Where did your passion for music, storytelling, and entertainment come from?

We grew up in a household full of music. My father, Reg, entertained and my mother, Eileen, organized the rest of us into the semblance of a family choir and drove me to piano lessons weekly. I bought my first accordion at the Crossroads Flea Market while going to university in Calgary and I never looked back!


When it comes to music, what are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about old, washed up, forgotten songs. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to introduce an audience to a ditty they have never heard before and will probably never hear again. Somehow I have been able to turn a ragged collection of "dusty old songs in my head," into a career.



What advice do you have for aspiring entertainers?

I believe that musicians and entertainers should be realistic about their talent. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can truly express yourself. You might call it finding your voice. Artists can get held back professionally by trying to be something they are not. That's one of the hazards of a creative mind. We imagine we are something we are not.


What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?

The late Urban Carmichael once gave me a succinct picture of how the music industry works and I've avoided it ever since. It's a tough life but fulfilling for me to be an independent musician. I certainly don't recommend it to everyone.


Reflecting back, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you've experienced as a musician?

I have experienced a great deal of personal satisfaction as I have introduced more and more of my own songs into my performances. With a repertoire of timeless songs, it is hard to write something that can stand next to a classic. When that transition is seamless, I am thrilled. It's like building a new house and having people compliment you on a great renovation.

Also, my favourite performances with adults are those where you see both tears of laughter and tears of sadness. To be able to write and sing songs that provoke both emotions in the space of one night's performance is rare and so something that I aspire to. With children, I always aim for the belly laugh, the one where it's hard to stop laughing long enough to breath.


Who is one person who's influenced you? 

My uncle Ivan Chaisson was always the funniest person I knew when I was a kid visiting the farm. I find myself always trying to be that funny teasing uncle when I work with kids. I have to thank him for his manner, his storytelling, and the great twinkle in his eye over the years.

When did you know you wanted to write your own music?

My first epiphany about the magic of words came when I read a Robert Frost poem called, "Fire and Ice."

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great and would suffice

A poem like that can teach you more about writing than any degree or diploma.


What do you love about living in Prince Edward Island?

I can't imagine living anywhere but Prince Edward Island. The first story I ever remember was my dad reading about David and Goliath in our children's Bible. PEI is a classic underdog like David. My whole career was built on being outside the popular and the commonplace. The Island and I are like couple of sentimental old timers sitting on a porch, just getting by.

What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?

One of the nicest things anyone ever said about me was when an old lady told her tour guide after one of my shows that I was "like an old soul in new pants." I appreciated her turn of phrase so much that I wrote it into a song.


Tell us about your latest project, "This I Know"

My latest project is a picture book that illustrates a song I wrote after my father died nine years ago. The song and the book is called "This I Know." It is published by Acorn Press and the book will be used as an ongoing fundraiser for the PEI chapter of Hospice. The experience of his death was the last gift he gave me as a father, a spiritual gift. The song attempts to capture that gift in words. The illustrations are beautiful expressions of light and hope. They are the work of a friend in Newfoundland, Joanne Snook-Hans, who is an accomplished illustrator of children's books and magazines.



What's in-store for you in the coming months?

The summer months mean it's back to Avonlea Village in Cavendish for daytime shows! At 11:00am there's a children's show called "Lively Songs for Little People" and at 2:00pm there's a show of Traditional and Maritime music with Leon Gallant. I have Ceilidhs in Malpeque on Wednesday nights and in Stanley Bridge on Thursday nights.


Want to book Mike the Music Man? You can contact him at for more info and for bookings!

"This I Know" can be purchased through: Indigo/Chapters HERE or through Amazon HERE

A Dream Come True for Jessica Gallant

Posted on June 10, 2015 by Kara Cousins

 Photo Credit: Louise Vessey for The 2015 Charlottetown Festival



"I love to make people laugh. It is so heartwarming to hear the sound of smiling laughter! Everything I do is for the audience, so if I can shed a little positive light on their day, I'm doing my job."


At a Glance:

- Grew up in Ten Mile House, Prince Edward Island

- Has two sisters, a brother-in-law, a Mother who saves peoples lives for a living, a Father who can literally fix anything, and a boyfriend who is also her best friend

- Lives for the beach! There's no place she feels more at home

- Favourite quote is "Hakuna Matata." It reminds her to not worry so much

- Studied acting in Los Angeles, Musical Theatre in Ontario, & Improv in Toronto

- Previously starred as Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables- The Musical

- Loves roller coasters, concerts, writing, and biking  


Jessica as Diana Barry

Tell us how you began acting? 

I started to fall in love with acting was when I was 10 years old. My family lived in Grande Prairie, Alberta, for a year and a half, and my parents put me in a musical theatre camp. The show we were performing was Beauty and the Beast, so naturally I was given the role of Dancing Plate #3. My mom says I was jumping up and down so people in the audience would see me, so I think that's when I caught the performing bug.

Jessica as Pippi Longstocking in 2005 

How does it feel to be a Prince Edward Islander playing Anne of Green Gables? 
It's completely indescribable. I've tried to wrap my head around it, but I don't think it will truly hit me until opening night. I'm only the second Islander ever to play Anne (with an e, thank you), so it is absolutely surreal. I grew up watching astounding ladies portray the role, such as Jennifer Toulmin, Amy Wallis and Chilina Kennedy, who is currently starring on Broadway! I feel truly honoured to have this opportunity, and am going to relish every moment. My childhood dream has come true, and I don't think a lot of people get to say that! 

When it comes to performing, what are you most passionate about?

I love to make people laugh. It is so heartwarming to hear the sound of smiling laughter! Everything I do is for the audience, so if I can shed a little positive light on their day, I'm doing my job. 

Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to becoming an actress & musician? 

Definitely my parents. They never restricted me when I wanted to try something new growing up. When it came to acting, they embraced it with open arms. I remember driving in the car with my Mom one day. I was in Grade 12 trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. She said, "What about acting and singing?" And I replied with, "Yeah, but that's not realistic." She shot back calmly with, "Of course it is. You love it. You should do what you love." I'll never forget that. 

Reflecting back on it, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you experienced so far?

I think one of the most exciting moments for me was singing the National Anthems at the Blue Jays game in Toronto. There were 30,000 people in the crowd, and I felt like I was in a dream! Another was definitely my first day rehearsing with the Charlottetown Festival in 2013. It felt like the first day of school. I was so nervous, but bubbling with excitement! 

What advice do you have for people aspiring to follow their dreams?

Dreams don't work unless you do. When you realize your passion, work hard at it and you will be rewarded. You can never stop learning, so continue to educate yourself and you'll continue to grow! 

What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?

To follow my instincts. This was something I heard in an acting class, but I think it can be applied to everything in life. You have to trust and believe in yourself. Trust when your heart is telling you to do something. Don't ignore it, follow it! Follow your heart, and you will live a happy fulfilling life! 

What's in store for you in the coming months?
These next couple months are going to be very busy and exciting! To begin the summer season off, I recently played my first official solo set at the Trailside Café & Inn. I was so excited and a little nervous, but it was an amazing evening. I'm also stepping into the role of Anne Shirley at the Charlottetown Festival in their beloved musical Anne of Green Gables. It's been a dream of mine since I was little, and I can't wait! I'll also be featured in Alice Through the Looking Glass, so be sure to get your tickets!

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

I've experienced so much kindness in my life, which is all anyone can ask for. The kindest thing for me was when Annie Allan and Wade Lynch gave me a spot in the Confederation Centre's Young Company in 2010. The reason I find it so kind was because my audition was absolutely horrendous! I dropped all my sheet music on the ground, forgot my monologue, ran around the room to shake my nerves, and started crying when Annie asked me, "So darling, why do you want to be in the Young Company?" That experience changed my life, so it was thanks to their kindness and vision that I'm where I am today. 

Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

My Mom. She has been my rock, my light, and my protector. She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, see the world, trust in myself, and love with all my heart. She is the kindest woman you will ever encounter and has a laugh that can be heard from here to the Prairies! Thank you will never be enough, but I will continue to thank her for the rest of my life. She's the best! I love you, Mommy!

I imagine there have been moments when you've been afraid to pursue your dreams, how do you overcome those fears?

There have definitely been moments of fear, and still are, when pursuing the unknown! I always remind myself, when one door closes, another flies right open. I think living with the "glass is half full" perspective also helps eliminate any fears I may have, as well as being grateful for everything I have TODAY. I try to live in the moment rather than fearing what may happen in the future. I trust that everything happens for a reason! 

What do you love about Prince Edward Island?

This question is my favourite! I purposefully try to bring up the fact that I'm from PEI when meeting someone new, just so I can talk about how much I love it! First off, the generosity and kindness of the people. We Islanders hear that a lot, but you don't understand how true it is until you leave and come back. It's like we're part of one big family. Which brings me to another thing I love- the pride we Islanders have for our home! You can take the girl out of the Island, but you can't take the Island out of the girl. The beaches have to be my all-time favourite thing about PEI. How can you not love the sight of pearly white sand, grassy green sand dunes, and a blinding blue ocean!? I'm obsessed. 

Lakeside Beach (Photo Credit: Naomi Cousins)

Where can people see you perform?

You can see me perform at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Anne of Green Gables and Alice Through the Looking Glass from June-August! Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming local performances, and check out my YouTube channel HERE.



Check out Jessica's YouTube Series: Singing in the Shower with Jess

Uilleann Piper- Ben Reid

Posted on June 05, 2015 by Kara Cousins


At a Glance:

-Born in Montreal, but he considers Cape Breton home as his family is from there 

-Ben decided to move to PEI after spending one day here

-Loves the strong music community & fine folks here in PEI

-Has played the uilleann pipes (the Irish version of bagpipes) for four and a half years

-Busks at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings


Tell us where your love for music and Gaelic traditions comes from?

My family has always held on to our Scottish heritage quite strongly. I grew up listening to Cape Breton and Irish music. Although we didn't play, music has always been a big part of my family.


Can you tell us about uilleann pipes?

The uilleann pipes are the Irish version of the bagpipes. They were developed around the 1700s. The story goes that the English had outlawed the larger form of Irish as an instrument of war, so the uilleann pipes were developed so the people could continue playing their music on an instrument that requires you to be seated while you play, and thus, can't be carried into battle. The uilleann pipes are a bellows-blown instrument which means that you don't blow into it like you would with Scottish pipes. Rather, you pump the air into a bag with a bellows strapped to your arm and then squeeze the bag to send air through the chanter to make the melody. There is also a set of drones that sit on your lap which create the constant droning sound. Then, there are regulator keys on top of the drones so that you can chord along with yourself as you play the chanter.


How many uilleann pipers are on PEI?

I'd say there are about five or six active uilleann pipers on PEI at the moment.


When it comes to music, what are you most passionate about?

Sharing it with others. A lot of the ideas I'm planning out for the next few years focus on getting music out to the community, particularly kids and young adults. Mostly traditional Irish music because that's what I know and it's what resonates with me. I want to help people start playing music of any type. If someone comes to me to learn the uilleann pipes then starts playing jazz, classical, or baroque music on the pipes, I think that's fantastic!


Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to becoming a musician?

I started playing music about seven years ago in Boston. The bodhran (Irish drum) was my first instrument but, with encouragement from some fantastic musicians in Boston, I picked up the pipes. It wasn't until about three years ago, when I was living in Ireland, learning from musicians there and busking in Limerick, that I decided to become a full-time musician. Prior to that, I was working on Bachelor of Arts in History and operating my own landscaping business.


Reflecting back on it, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you experienced as a musician?

Probably the first time I was asked to co-host an Irish music session. That really solidified in my mind that I had "come of age" as a musician. Being asked to co-host a session with someone whom I respected as a musician was incredibly encouraging. I still get that feeling all the time when friends of mine, musicians who I look up to in experience and skill, say, "Hey, do you want to perform with me here?" It never gets old. Having the opportunity to play with musicians much better than myself gives a great adrenaline rush and it motivates me to become a better musician.


What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

Practice. It's pretty important. Also, focus on the positive feedback. There's always going to be naysayers, but don't let them stop you from pursuing your passion. That being said, it's really important to be able to separate when someone is just being negative and when someone is providing constructive criticism. There's going to be someone out there who is a better musician than you, if they constructively critique your work, pay attention.


What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?

Relax. Things will get sorted. Just do your best, if it doesn't work out, try again or try something else.


What's in-store for you in the coming months?

Music. Once The North Atlantic Tionól finishes, I hope to attend some of the Festival of Small Halls. Then, it's back to work performing music and planning for next year's Tionól. In August, I'm also hoping to attend the Gaelic College in St. Ann's, Cape Breton and probably Celtic Colours in October.

Tell us more about The North Atlantic Tionól?

The word Tionól is Irish for "gathering." Lately, it's come to be used mainly in the context of uilleann pipe gatherings. The North Atlantic Tionól came about largely because the nearest Tionól that takes place is in New York and the PEI Uilleann Pipers Guild wanted to start something that the Atlantic provinces could get involved in. Our main focus is to help the Irish music community grow in the Atlantic provinces, not just PEI. However, it's now become an international event. We have quite a lot of attendees coming from Ireland, the UK, and the US.

 We are going to have some world-class Irish musicians performing and teaching at the Tionól. We have Patrick Hutchinson from Boston and Debbie Quigley from Toronto teaching pipes. Mickey Dunne from Ireland is one of the most recognizable names Irish traditional music as an uilleann piper and pipe maker. Karine Gallant will be joining us from Summerside to teach fiddle. And, for our opening concert on Friday June 12, I am absolutely thrilled to say that the world-renowned uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan will be performing. Paddy is one of the founding members of the Irish group The Bothy Band that helped revive Irish music in the 1970s.


(Paddy Keenan)

 We will have concerts on each evening at 7pm. Friday evening will be Paddy Keenan, accompanied by Stuart Peak. On Saturday evening, our instructors will all be performing. On Sunday evening, there will be an open mic for anyone who would like to participate. It provides an opportunity for the students, instructors, and anyone else who came up just to perform. Following each concert, there will be an open session for all musicians to join in and play with each other and everyone is invited to stay and listen to those after the concerts as well. The tickets for the concerts are $20; $15; and $5 respectively.

The classes and workshops are open to everyone. Our main classes are Intermediate/Advanced fiddle. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced piping. But also, there is an introduction to Irish whistle class available. It is especially geared for people, young, old, and everything in between, who aren't familiar with Irish music or who don't play an instrument but would like to. Stuart Peak, a very accomplished instrumentalist from Boston, is going to be teaching the Irish whistle classes. Those are one-hour classes for $20 each hour and you can either bring your own whistle or the Tionól has whistles for sale.


Where can people get more info about The North Atlantic Tionól?

You can visit our website HERE to register or buy tickets. Also, visit our Facebook page or e-mail:


Where can people see you perform this summer?

Well, I'm often busking in Charlottetown or at the Farmer's Market on Saturdays. This summer, I'll be playing at the DiverseCity Multicultural Festival in Charlottetown on June 28 and in Montague on July 4. I'll also be performing at the Mermaid Tears Seaglass Festival in Souris in late July with my band, Mo Thogaire.


What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

The support I've gotten from my family and friends while organising the Tionól has been phenomenal and there's not enough time to mention how many things they've done for me. As for a single instance of kindness that springs to mind, I guess when my uncle invited me to live with him and his family on PEI. It provided a great opportunity for me to focus on music and a few other plans without having to worry about where I'd live.


Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

Amy Basse. She is a fiddler who I played with frequently in Boston. I credit her with my passion for music. She was one of the very few people who really encouraged me from the beginning to learn the uilleann pipes and she helped me become a more confident musician. I would say to Amy, "Come for a visit sometime. I miss you."


 (Paddy Keenan playing the uilleann pipes)

Barbra Mayhew

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Kara Cousins


At a Glance:

-Is a proud Islander who's lived in Prince Edward Island her entire life

-Federal public servant by day and food blogger by night My Island Bistro

-Hobbies include travelling, painting, photography, writing, cooking, baking, and cake decorating

-Recently became an ambassador at Ask An Islander

-Developed a knack for all things food at an early age and was never trained professionally


Tell us how My Island Bistro Kitchen came to be?

I finished my Masters of Public Administration and was looking for something creative and hands-on to do that didn’t involve book study.  Blogging had just really come into its own around that time, and I was already sharing my cooking adventures with a limited audience on Facebook.  I decided I wanted to reach a wider audience but didn’t want just another recipe blog. Instead, I wanted to showcase the great food produced on Prince Edward Island, as well as the producers and the farms. I wanted to demonstrate what home chefs can do with our Island food.  I was curious about several foods produced on the Island and decided if I was going to go and find out about them, I might as well share the knowledge with others. A blog seemed to be the best way to do that! My blog provides the platform for me to combine three of my passions:  cooking, photography, and writing!


Tell us about your blog.

I blog about anything to do with food and beverages, including my own recipes and inspiration for creative table settings, afternoon teas, and picnics.  This also includes blogging about culinary events such as Fall Flavours, Savour Food and Wine Show, and new restaurant openings. A core focus of my blog is food that comes from the land and the waters around PEI.  I particularly enjoy paying visits to Prince Edward Island farmers, fishers, and the many food and beverage producers across the Island. I love finding out about what they are producing and helping to tell their story. I then take their products and create recipes with them which I share on my blog.  Focusing on Island products also inspires me to be more creative in how I cook with local products and to find different ways to incorporate them into recipes and present them on the table.  It also gives off-Island visitors to my blog a glimpse into the many fine foods produced on PEI and, to some extent, the general quality of life we enjoy here.

I want to have the flexibility to blog about a variety of food-related subjects so don’t want the blog to be so overly restrictive that it is exclusively limited to just solely PEI content.  Therefore, while the core focus of my blog does revolve around Island foods, I do from time to time, feature products, producers, and stories from off-Island if they fit in with the philosophy of my blog and if I think they would be of interest to my followers.  If I have something interesting to share from my travels, such as taking Afternoon Tea in London, I’ll blog about that, too.  

I like to also blog about vintage recipes and the nostalgic old family favorites that are still considered “comfort” foods today. I find those recipes are often the ones that resonate most with my followers because they evoke fond memories of their own childhood. If there is a connection to good food or beverage, chances are I will blog about it!


When it comes to food and cooking, what are you most passionate about?

Using the freshest, best quality, and locally produced ingredients available. I believe it’s important to buy as much of my food locally as possible because it is freshest and highest quality and I’m supporting the local producers from my community. I believe it’s important to know where my food comes from, who produced it, and how it was produced. I love working with foods that are tasty and easy to prepare.


Who or what has inspired to pursue your love for cooking?

As a small child, my mom always allowed me to help cook and bake.  She had a big yellow mixing bowl that she used for all her baking and, as soon as I’d see that bowl and a spatula appear, I knew something fun was going to happen!  I’d don my little apron and drag a chair to the cupboard and stand on it, waiting for a turn at stirring whatever she was making.  And, she never said ‘no’!  

My grandmother also allowed me to assist in whatever she was cooking or making and delighted in explaining the process to me.  I vividly remember her making her own butter and sauerkraut.  I was exposed to great cooks who were involved in all kinds of food production and preparation.  For example, I always helped in some way with jam and pickle-making so all of this is just second nature to me. It might have just been cutting up cucumbers for pickles or picking the berries for the jam but I was involved in some way and I was encouraged and allowed to be part of it. I was making pies, cookies, and cakes long before I was a teenager.  So, I had great culinary mentors.  

I also had an inspiring Home Economics teacher in high school who really furthered my interest and passion in cooking.


Do you have a favorite meal you love to prepare?

I enjoy cooking pretty much anything, but cooking a tasty turkey dinner with all the trimmings rates high on my list because I love to dress a turkey on a platter for presentation and make it the centrepiece of a great meal. It’s also a great “comfort” food meal.


Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share with us?

Sure! I’d love to share my Lobster Eggs Benedict that features PEI lobster. Click HERE to view the recipe. 


Are there any PEI/local foods that you enjoy preparing?

I like working with all of them – the seafood as well as the fresh produce from the land.  I especially like discovering new products or ones that may have been around for awhile but I’ve never tried, like hascaps.  Sometimes, I’ll prepare the foods in the traditional way they are typically prepared and other times I’ll take them and prepare them in a newer, more creative way.  Of course, I like the produce from my own garden and especially feature rhubarb in a lot of my recipes.


Are there any food providers or shops where you love getting ingredients from?

I like the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market.  The producers there tend to be small farmers and food producers so they put a lot of personal, hands-on care and attention into their products.  The food tends to be more fresh at Farmers Markets because it hasn’t traveled thousands of miles over many days to reach us. I also like to connect with the producers at the markets and talk about their products. When I buy directly from the producers, I’m putting the money directly into the hands of the producers who have done all the work to grow the food. I also like to buy produce at the farm gates and at local roadside produce stands. I think we need to support the local food movement.

For meat, I like KJL Select Meats at Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown.  Again, the meat comes from local Island farmers and I can talk directly with the butchers to discuss different cuts of meat and what I’m looking for.  I find them very accommodating and their meat is fresh and good quality.  

While obviously not an Island product, I do like the variety and quality of olive oils found at the Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store in Charlottetown.  I have quite a selection of their products in my kitchen.  

Reflecting back on it, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you experienced in the kitchen?

Successfully making my first batch of bread as a young teenager under the guidance and watchful eye of my grandmother!  I remember seeing her so proud of my accomplishment.  It was an experience that built my culinary confidence. My grandmother would be beyond delighted if she could see all the cooking and baking I do now.

Buying my first KitchenAid stand mixer.  It was quite a step up from a little Sunbeam hand mixer!  It was a planned purchase so I saved my money for the mixer and remember buying it in the housewares section in the basement of Eaton’s department store in Charlottetown.  That was in 1994 and that mixer has been well used and well cared for and it still works like a charm!


What advice do you have for aspiring cook?

  • Start with simple easy-to-prepare dishes so you build confidence and so you don’t become discouraged. It’s probably best not to start with a soufflé or Beef Wellington!  Newbies might want to start with a simple stew or soup, spaghetti, or macaroni and cheese, for example.
  • Read recipes through a couple of times before attempting them. This ensures you have all necessary ingredients, equipment, and that you understand the preparation method.
  • Set a goal to try one new recipe every week or two – get into the habit of cooking your own food.
  • Look for short-term evening or one-day cooking courses.  Local colleges and supermarkets are goods sources for these.
  • Find a mentor who will help you learn to cook – a friend, relative, or co-worker who is an experienced cook.
  • Invest in a good set of chefs knives and high quality pots and pans.  I still use my first Henckels knives bought circa 1985 and my oldest Paderno pots date back to 1984.  I have a large selection of pots and they are all Paderno – I’ve never owned any other kind of cookware.  They are well used but still look brand new. They’re quality and, if well cared for, really do last a lifetime.  
  • Use good quality ingredients as they will yield a better finished product that is tasty and then you’ll be more motivated to keep cooking.

What's in-store for you in the coming months?

There are always new ideas percolating in my head, but I am limited by time available to pursue them!  Summer and fall are my two favourite times of the year for blogging because there are lots of fresh local foods available to work with and there are a number of foodie events, such as PEI Fall Flavours.  Afternoon teas and picnics will likely make more appearances on my food blog and I will continue seeking out story ideas of interesting things Island farmers, fishers, and other food producers are doing with food.

Also,  I have been invited to be part of the team of ambassadors for Prince Edward Island Tourism's new initiative called "Ask An Islander," launched on May 7th. Individuals contemplating a vacation on PEI can go to the Ask An Islander website and ask their questions about the Island and one of the ambassadors will be assigned to answer it from an Islander's perspective.  

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

My mother and grandmother allowing me to participate in whatever they were cooking or making and teaching me the basics at a very early age. It has been a skill-set and experience that has served me well over the years.

Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

My mom for teaching me how to cook and bake and for always letting me help, even when I’m sure she could have done it faster without my help.  This was how I developed my lifelong interest and knowledge in cooking and baking.  I’d say, “look how you influenced me, mom, and thanks!”


To keep up with Barbra, check out these links:






Todd MacLean || Creating a Global Chorus

Posted on May 06, 2015 by Kara Cousins



At a Glance:

-Grew up on a mini farm, dubbed “The Funny Farm,” in Meadow Bank, PEI with his parents, Roddie and Miriam MacLean, and an older brother and sister 

-Todd loves our Strawberry and Grand Marnier jam on toast, along with morning coffee!

-Received a BA Honours in English with a minor in Anthropology at UPEI and graduated in 2001

-Self-employed freelance writer/journalist and musician (teaches 35 private music lessons per week in piano, guitar and saxophone!!)

-Lives with his wife and two cats in an old farmhouse by the river in Pinette, PEI

-writes a weekly entertainment music column in The Guardian

-Gigs regularly with various acts – most notably with the Amanda Jackson Band these days

The Amanda Jackson Band

Tell us about your book, Global Chorus?

The idea for Global Chorus came to me in the spring of 2010, and it was fuelled by a long term anxiety surrounding humanity's current destructive presence on Earth, and the questions that arose from this concern. I had a statement/premise that rose up within me leading up to the idea, and it was this: "The right words said at the right time can have the force of a mighty river; and moreover, the right words said at the right time by the right people can wash away mountains of injustice, leaving only the seeds for a better world planted in their path." And so I felt compelled to reach out to people all over the world and ask them this same line of questioning:

"Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current environmental and social crises? Can we create the conditions necessary for our own survival as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope and can we do it?"

I thought if I could somehow reach the right people – the leading thinkers on Earth today – and ask them these questions, that the power contained in their answers, the insight, the guidance, could be enough to inspire even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our time and place in this world. My dream was to compile a daily reader of 365 different people, featuring one person's response on our future for each day of the year.

The title Global Chorus dropped into my head pretty easily it seemed, perhaps due to the big part that music plays in my life. And, after working on the idea for 4 years – 10,000 emails later – I had found a publisher, finished the project, brought on board pieces of words from Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, David Suzuki, Maya Angelou, Jamie Oliver, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama and hundreds more, and the book called Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet was released in the Fall of 2014.

The contributors in the book are a diverse and impressive group of people. How did you get so many great people to join this project?

My tactic from the get-go was this: Patient, persistent, always-cordial email communication. It seems to be amazing what you can bring together with this kind of approach. I had to do a lot of Google searching for contact info too – and this became sort of like a sport fishing game for me. Ha ha! At first I was really not good at it, but I think I got a pretty good handle on it over the years. Google and my Apple computer played a big part in the feasibility of this project – and so when my wife Savannah and I were down in California on the book tour in December, 2014, we actually had a bouquet of flowers and a signed book delivered as a thank-you gift to the headquarters of both Google and Apple.

Where did your inspiration for this book come from?

Firstly, I can say that I was (and still am) inspired by all of the people who are in this book – all 365 of them. They are my heroes, because they are refashioning the human presence on Earth in their working days, in such brilliant ways – coaxing and shaping our evolution in the right, sustainable, harmonious direction. I do short daily meditations, and I've had a prayer saying for a long time now that I say when I read meditational books that guide and inspire toward a better Earth – I place my hands on the book and I say, "Please help me help you to find us all." That really is just a statement that naturally pours out of me that I've been saying for at least a dozen years now (and I've never really told that to anyone before, by the way!) – and so, in that regard, it's clear that I have an inspired directive energy within me to be a messenger of sorts. In other words, inspiring others is what inspires me.

This project seems like a huge undertaking. Tell us about the moment you realized you could do it.

The moment I realized that it could be possible was when I received the first response for the book, from Dr. David Suzuki, in May of 2011. That took several patient (and persistent) emails to his assistant, but eventually, it did actually miraculously pan out, and I still remember the thrill of that moment like it was yesterday. Savannah and I jumped for joy around the house. And yet, then I realized, "Oh...and now 364 more to go..." It was like realizing that I could climb a mountain, and then looking up with my neck straining at the towering Everest before me.

Tell us about the different organizations you’re supporting through this book?

The mandate with Global Chorus is, while bringing intellectual/inspirational fuel to readers around the world, to also bring monetary aid to organizations who are doing work to recover, protect and sustain life on Earth. And thus, the net proceeds from the project are going to three different organizations:

- Jane Goodall has been a true hero of mine for a long time, and she founded a wonderfully globally-effective organization called The Jane Goodall Institute, that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. JGI also have an excellent and productive presence in Canada too.

- The David Suzuki Foundation's mission is to protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future - and this goes hand-in-hand with the focus of Global Chorus. They are one of the leading environmental organizations in Canada.

- The Canadian Red Cross continues to be a highly effective humanitarian aid organization that brings much-needed relief to areas all over the world when it is needed most – and it is an honour as well to have them on the list of the three beneficiary organizations from the net proceeds from Global Chorus.

What ignited your passion for the environment?

There have been many experiences and things that I have learned through life that have ignited my passion for the environment - but mainly I would have to cite: 1) Growing up in the countryside of PEI where I hung out with animals a lot, and regularly played (and peacefully sat beside) a stream in the woods. I wish that every kid in this world could have that kind of experience growing up, because there seems to be so much of value that these kinds of experiences can teach you. 2) Being fortunate enough to have great teachers early in life like my Eliot River Elementary grade 6 teacher Bill Hogg who had an environmental studies component part of his curriculum in that 1990 school year. 3) Being the youngest in the family, and learning a lot at an early age from my environmentally educated and artistically passionate older brother and sister.

I imagine there are moments when you’ve been afraid to share your work with the world. How do you face and overcome those fears?

You just have to realize that everyone has fears, and yet, that no good would be brought to better this world if we all stayed roadblocked by them. Fear and Love are on opposite ends of the energy spectrum: And 

Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to sharing your passion/work with the world?

Speaking of Love, I would unquestionably say in response to this, my wife, Savannah. And I thank her hugely for it!!

Todd and his wife Savannah 

What advice do you have for aspiring writer/editor/creator?

Spring out from the energy of every door that slams in your face, to then find that other door to try (because, let's face it, there's always another door).

What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?

My high school science teacher Lloyd Theuerkauf gave us a lot of great advice in those years – but one of the best things he said was something like, "Folks, do your best, and try hard. And if things don't go exactly the way you were hoping, that's okay too. Most likely you'll probably still eat breakfast tomorrow." He also said, "Folks, when I go to the grocery store, I buy a little bunch of yellow bananas, and then a little bunch of green bananas. That way, you'll have some ripe yellow bananas when you need 'em later in the week." Works in so many ways!

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

I've received a lot of kindness from family, friends, and Loved ones in my life, and so this is a really hard question to answer. But, one thing that comes to mind is that in 2003 when I was living in Toronto and playing in a band at the time, I was talking on the phone to my aunt Beryl (who passed away in 2008), and she just all of a sudden wrote a cheque for $3000 to me in that conversation, and immediately mailed it to me, so that I could buy a keyboard with it. I still use that Roland keyboard, and I am forever thankful to her for it.

Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

Jane Goodall. She came on board very early in the Global Chorus project as well – which really helped the snowball to roll powerfully with it – and as I said above, she has long been a hero of mine, particularly in terms of her adventurous and steadfast passion, and her profound strides toward uniting humanity and the animal kingdom together. If I do ever experience the ultimate honour of meeting her...well...I will have to find some way of summing up a mountain of gratitude and admiration all in one moment!

Jane Goodall

What's in-store for you in the coming months?

Global Chorus is taking on a new life in publishing (and more!) this coming Fall – and I have been hard at work on these developments. Stay tuned to: for news!

Where can people buy Global Chorus? 

You can buy the book on PEI at bookstores like The Bookmark and Indigo in Charlottetown, Coles in Summerside, The PEI Preserve Co. and other stores around PEI this summer as well.  And online you can also order Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet easily at Amazon, Chapters, and at the publisher's website, Rocky Mountain Books- which also features a whole host of different ways to buy the book in paper and electronically.

Gloria Wooldridge- Reflections from the Perimeter

Posted on April 28, 2015 by Kara Cousins


“. . .Each person has talent and skills and that it is a lifelong task to discover the wonderful qualities that make you unique - and to not give up on your goals and dreams.” Gloria Wooldridge

At a glance:

-Grew up and resides in PEI

-Wife of Gingher & mom to Alyssa and Jenny  

-Favourite coffee is 3-bean blend, ground on #2, available from Brett at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market

-Shops on the outside aisles of the grocery store and supplements her weekly grocery list at the farmer's market and from her farmers Carrie, Jeff, and Olivia at Olde MacKenzie Farm

-Decorating style: she loves all things eclectic and colourful and with history


Tell me a bit about your writing 

Over the years I have done all kinds of creative things in my spare time and have a love of lifetime learning. Creating, whether it be poetry, painting, or photography, have been wonderful outlets to explore. It always amazes me - the talent on this little Island – and the willingness of those who create to share their extensive knowledge to help others develop their skillset.  There are many projects I have worked on where, by asking questions or for assistance through friends of friends and social media, I have met wonderful people who have been so willing to lend their expertise. I have been published a couple of times in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books, which was a great experience.


Tell me about your latest project, reflections from the perimeter? How did the books come about?

The poetry books began as a Christmas gift to our two adult daughters.  Over the years, I have penned several poems that were interspersed in various journals, inspired by everyday life - the beauty around me, through deep faith, and wanting to remember moments or feelings.  Every poem in each book evokes a fond memory, explores concepts, or honours values and relationships I hold dear.  I wanted to put my poetry in one place, hoping that our girls would get to know me on a different level, aside from just being “mom”.

I also started attending the monthly Poetry Readings at the Haviland Club. Realizing that I really appreciated each person’s voice, I read a few poems myself.  With the encouragement of friends and family, as well as some advice from a fellow author, I split the original project into two volumes and edited (and edited…and edited) until I was happy with the result.  Several friends helped at different points - Maggie Lillo took my covers and made them more professional; Linda Morrison Durant edited, and Rob Patterson and Cindy LaPena both added suggestions, which I happily incorporated.

The books themselves took hundreds of hours of time, and with all the storm days this past winter that worked out just fine.  Often with the wind howling and the snow blowing, I was at my kitchen table, working on my project. I have learned a lot in the process and as a result, could likely write a new book about “100 ways to not write and publish a book.”





There must have been moments of fear and hesitation when making the decision to publish your work. How do you overcome and face those fears?

It is a little intimidating to put yourself out there.  What I have come to appreciate over the years is that art of any kind is subjective.  Some people like poetry, some do not. The same can be said about painting styles or music.  Whether others like or dislike my work has little to do with me personally, but the reality is; the words contained within are encouragement and food for thought for some.  

Every season of life has challenges and art or creative projects in the background of everyday life makes me happy. When I turned 50 I realized that if I didn’t start doing things I wanted to do, I may never have the opportunity, so I better get going!  

A dear friend said to me one time and it has stuck – “When we fly higher, we lift others as we go.”  We have a profound effect on each other, hopefully for the better.  One of the reasons I persevered and made the project available is that I want to encourage others to get going and to find their own voice.  

Today’s technology makes it very doable to write your own book with print on demand options. I don’t particularly have formatting skills, so I hired someone on the internet to do that for me.  The price was equivalent to a few cups of good coffee, so the barriers are few.


Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to sharing your poetry and art with the world?

One of the messages I hope that I have conveyed over the years to my daughters and to other women is that each person has talent and skills and that it is a lifelong task to discover the wonderful qualities that make you unique - and to not give up on your goals and dreams.  This project is a simple example of following through to the finish line with a personal goal.  


What advice do you have for aspiring writer?

Write something you like and are proud of.


What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?

More of a statement really, “Blessed are the plodders.”  I have thought of this phrase hundreds of times in the past ten years. It is the thought that even if you are only making a little progress, you are still making progress.  One day you will look around and realize the finish line is under your feet.


What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

I have been extremely fortunate to have had wonderful encouraging people in my life that have believed bigger for me than I have for myself.  It is in the doing that I have become.  


Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?

Well my husband has been extremely supportive over the years and has put up with just about every project imaginable at the kitchen table. Aside from him, I would have to say Debbie Theurekauf, a friend of 20 years who has encouraged and challenged me to overcome my own insecurities and move beyond my comfort zone. Additionally, I list those who have influenced me and this project in the dedication section of each book.


What's in-store for you in the coming months?

I am involved in an Etsy Pop-Up Event on May 2 at the Charlottetown Fire Hall.  My booth will be a fundraising effort for 11-year old Keisha Jadis, whose family is diligently working toward raising $15,000 for a Cystic Fibrosis Airway Clearance Vest.  It is a fun idea and is a bit of a stretch out of my comfort zone, but I believe in the cause and want to help, even if in a small way.  My childhood friend, Linda, is helping me with this.  We have been creating stuff and dreaming up ideas together, from painting pet rocks to drawing characters on basement walls since the age of 12.  Aside from that, I have started a new poetry project that will take the rest of the summer that promises to be fun and I think, interesting.  


"Gardens of Hope" written by Gloria Wooldridge 


For more info:

Paperback editions: 

there she was, gone: reflections from the perimeter

if not here, then where: reflections from the perimeter

Kindle editions:

there she was, gone: reflections from the perimeter

if not here, then where: reflections from the perimeter 


Susan Christensen- Chasing Bliss

Posted on April 20, 2015 by Kara Cousins
“Susan’s intrinsic love for her Island home is clearly evident in the artwork which is her passion. Extensive travel has only highlighted for her the beauty and serenity of home —Prince Edward Island.”
At a glance:
-Grew up in Summerside, PEI
-Born 7th in a family of 9 children
-Graduated from Holland College’s Graphic Design course in 2010
-Mother of three
-Owner of Studio 4 - Susan Christensen Art
-Part-owner of Stanley Bridge Country Resort
Without further adieu, friends, meet Susan!
What do you love about PEI?
I love living on an island surrounded by the ocean. My favorite sound is the waves crashing against the shore. It has a very soothing effect on me. During my lifetime, I have spent a lot of time walking on this Island’s beaches. I love the color of the earth here on PEI! The red soil is so vivid in a freshly plowed field after a rain. The complementary colors in the landscape, red and green and orange and blue, make every image of this Island radiate with beauty. The vistas within the Island landscape are breathtaking. As an amateur photographer, I always have my camera with me. I want to capture the beauty  of PEI in my paintings. It gives me great joy to capture and share this beauty with the people who live here and those who come to visit.
Where did your love for art come from? Tell me about your art.
When I was a young child, my older sister loved to draw. I would sit beside her and mimic her drawings. Once I discovered my ability to paint, I wanted to spend every spare minute painting! Initially, I considered painting a hobby and my subject was flowers. When I started painting landscapes, I could see that selling my work was a possibility. I now sell my originals, as well as limited edition prints and notecards. “Beach Walk PEI” was my first contemporary painting. It was inspired by a painting by Lawren Harris, from the Group of Seven, combined with my memories of my walks on the Island beaches.
(Beach Walk © Susan Christensen) 


I imagine there are moments when you are afraid to share your work to the world. How do you overcome those fears?
Let me tell you a story about my first contemporary painting. When I completed this painting, Beach Walk, I felt it didn’t work, so I put it in a closet. One day I asked an artist friend if she thought it worked. She said no, so I put it back in the closet. A while later, I was taking some work to be framed and decided to take it with me. I asked the framer and gallery owner what he thought of it. He said he liked and thought I should frame it. I put it in the gallery at The Dunes and it sold in two days. It was also the image the PEI Government chose to use on the PEI items going to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Now I just paint and put the paintings out there. You never know what people will be interested in. I do still experience a bit of apprehension before I put my work before an audience.
Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to sharing your art with the world?
My three greatest artistic influences have been Georgia O'Keefe, Emily Carr, and Lawren Harris. It is not only their art work I admire, but their spirit of exploration and determination. Each one was able to take their art further down the road of discovery, something to which I also aspire. There are a number of Island artists who I admire and who’ve encouraged me. They are, Henry Purdy, Tony Diodati, Maurice Bernard, Trudy Callbeck and Karen Gallant. I love my Island home and I am pleased to have the ability and opportunity to present this beautiful Island to the world through my paintings. Some have said it’s not just the image they enjoy, but also the feelings evoked by my PEI paintings.  
What advice do you have for an aspiring artist?
Immerse yourself! Continue to paint one painting after another! This is your greatest teacher for each painting teaches you something you can bring into the next painting. If you get bored with the way you are painting, explore new techniques. And don’t be afraid! Keep creating art and sharing it publicly. The responses you get are helpful in your artistic career. Don’t always be concerned about final product. Be more concerned about what you are learning and discovering.
What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?
To follow my bliss! When I am painting, I am in my element, my place. I didn’t discover this until I was 45 years old. Since then, I’ve read that Robert Bateman started his artistic career when he was 45. Starting out, he was an abstract painter because he thought it was what he had to do to be popular. Then he saw an exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. He then realized he could be a realist and still be popular as a painter. It’s evident from his paintings that this is where his heart truly is. Also, do what you love and the money will follow. When you pour your heart and soul into your work, it’s obvious in the final product. In my case, my paintings!


(Along Darnley Shore © Susan Christensen) 


What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
My children have been very kind to me; encouraging me when I decided to go back to school and in my work and my new found career. They express and show me how proud and supportive they are of me and what I am doing.
Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?
It will have to be three people. My sons, Carl and Nathan, and my daughter,  Robyn. I would like thank you for who you are and for all of your encouragement, love and support.


What’s in-store for you in the coming months?
At the present, I am teaching art classes as well as working on a painting that will be a gift for the “Stars for Life” fundraiser. Vermillion Art Works in Charlottetown, sells my originals, along with the prints and notecards. The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, and other Island businesses, are kindly carrying my prints and note cards as well. This summer, I’d love to travel to the locations selling my work, set up my easel and paint so people visiting can watch me working. I did this when I had my own gallery. It is an enjoyable way for me to engage with people and talk about art and the Island, my two passions!


Be sure to check out Susan’s work:

Mathieu LeBlanc - Passionate About the Forests

Posted on February 17, 2015 by Bruce MacNaughton

Over the past few months, I have had the great fortune of touring many parts of the Island through participation in 21 Inc’s PEI Leaders Program and meeting with leaders in various sectors of life, including business.  What I have come away with from these experiences, is a realization that this little Island is chock full of innovative, progressive entrepreneurs, many of whom are transforming the way things are done in traditional industries, such as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry.

One such entrepreneur is Mathieu LeBlanc. Mathieu is the President and CEO of ACFOR Energy, which he co-owns with Dick Arsenault, and is also the founder of its sister company, ACFOR Inc. ACFOR specializes in sustainable forestry management and provides biomass fuel in the form of wood chips to large buildings such as schools and hospitals, allowing them to drastically reduce or eliminate their oil usage.

Here in PEI, ACFOR Energy is supplying biomass heat to 5 schools in Western PEI, as well as the Western Hospital, and anticipates continued expansion across the Island over the next few years.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mathieu LeBlanc in November of last year, when he gave the 21 Inc. group a tour of a woodlot that had been selectively thinned (I would never have known it had been touched by machines), and a tour of the woodchip heating system installed at Athena School in Summerside.  From the moment he began to speak to our group, I had no doubt of Mathieu LeBlanc’s passion for the forests and for helping build PEI’s renewable energy sources. Early in January, I followed up with Mathieu to get his answers to some burning questions I still had about ACFOR and biomass energy.

Q1. You are clearly passionate about forests and nature, how did this passion develop and how did it help shape the way ACFOR operates?

When I was growing up, I was always in the woods. I went into the woods with my grandfather and I always liked the simplicity and calmness of the forest. When I was in high school someone told me that I could have a career in forestry, that’s when I was hooked and decided I want to spend the rest of my life as a forester. For me, the important thing was and still is to have quality, healthy forests, so that my children can experience the same feelings that I had when I was in the woods as a child.

Q2.  ACFOR is an acronym for Acadian Forest. What is an Acadian Forest and why is it important that we sustain these forests in the Maritimes?

The Acadian Forest is a forest ecosystem. You have the boreal forest in the North and the hardwood forest in the South; the Acadian Forest is a mix of both forests. It is one of most diverse forests in the world because of the mix of hard and soft woods. Its diversity makes it unique, and that’s why it’s so important to manage that diversity and promote it.

Q3. There’s so much to be learned about forest management! Can you explain how removing trees from the forest benefits the forest itself as well as the woodlot owner?

Sustainable forestry management relies on selective thinning of the forest and is very good for both the forest and the woodlot owner. To use an analogy that people can relate to, think of a garden with a thick row of carrots. If the carrots are too close to each other, they won’t grow. You have to remove some of the carrots to allow the others to get the nutrients, water and sunlight they need. Once the row of carrots is thinned, the remaining carrots are able to grow much faster and larger. The same basic principles can be applied to managing a forest, with selective thinning allowing the remaining trees to thrive. From the woodlot owner’s perspective, selective thinning provides and excellent ROI, because they are increasing their yield per acre each year by three to four times and his land is more valuable. Finally, removing a certain percentage of trees will create light on the forest floor where a new generation of trees will be able to grow. This will create an uneven aged forest that will be healthier.

Q4.  What exactly is biomass energy and what are its benefits compared to other sources of energy such as oil, wind or solar?

Biomass energy is all energy that is derived from organic material, such as energy crops (ethanol) and wood. Compared to oil, the biggest benefit is that it is renewable and, if managed properly, can be an inexhaustible supply of energy. The other major benefit is that it can be sourced locally, therefore allowing the Maritimes to establish a stable source of energy and forecast their energy costs. It is not the silver bullet energy solution, but it does have the benefit of being accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. In this respect, it is a great complement to other renewables, such as wind and solar, that can only provide intermittent energy because it is not possible to store solar or wind-generated energy.

The other major benefit is that biomass energy and sustainable forestry creates more jobs per million dollars of investment. A combination of all sources of energy that maximizes benefits to nature, people and communities is what we promote at ACFOR.

Q5 - It's really exciting to see ACFOR adopting new technologies and innovations in an industry that is generally perceived as very traditional. Can you tell us a bit about some of technologies/innovations you have adapted throughout your operations?

We have one of the world’s most advanced forestry machines, which is made in Finland (Ponsse). These machines are very efficient fuel wise and are equipped with GPS/GIS systems, onboard computers and remote monitoring. Using this type of machine allows us to be more efficient in our operations and keep costs lower.  In fact, because of this innovation ACFOR can be as productive as those employing clear-cutting methods. 

We have also adopted a vertically integrated business model, which means that we control all areas of our supply chain, from forestry management to woodchipping to leasing the biomass heating systems to our customers.   Our boilers incorporate Austrian technology that is able to burn wood chips at 95% efficiency, which is very impressive.

Q6. Sustainable forestry management and biomass energy has the potential to benefit entire communities and the province. How is ACFOR collaborating with governments, institutions, communities and individuals to find common goals with respect to sustaining forests? 

We collaborate with many partners. For example, our clients include universities and cities that own forests.  The work we do is mutually beneficial to ACFOR and the community. The client is having their forests managed and therefore they are going to be healthier. We also share the profits from the revenue of the wood. ACFOR employs a lot of people in the community directly and indirectly, including truckers, mechanics, welders and local mills, so the money stays in the community.

We are very excited about adopting community investment models, such as the CEDB in PEI. Every year in PEI, over $100M in RRSP savings leaves the Island and very little comes back. We want to partner with Islanders and Maritimers to keep our investment dollars local and leave a better legacy for our children. We will be launching the CEDB very soon, so stayed tuned for updates on that front.

Q7.  What is the kindest thing someone has done for you? 

One time we had a family that really cared about their woodlot and they were looking for someone who cared as much for their wood as them. One day they brought a cake with trees on it to show how much they appreciated us taking care of their woodlot, it was a total surprise and an act of kindness that I will forever remember. And for us, that’s the goal  - we want our clients to know that we will treat their forest as if it was our own.

For more information about ACFOR Energy, please visit their website at