The Third-Storey Condo

Each spring, do you find you keep one ear open to hear the first robin’s song? Ah-h-h-h . . . it’s spring!

I was delighted to see a robin splashing about in the front yard’s birdbath. Afterwards, it flew into the nearby pear tree to dry off and preen its feathers.

What we didn’t observe was the quiet construction in the backyard of a third storey on the robin’s nest of previous years . . . dobbing on a bit more mud and working in tiny twigs into its round walls. The nest is hidden partway from the top of a cedar tree below our bedroom window, conveniently sheltered from rain by the overhead eaves.

When we transplanted hostas in the flowerbed surrounding the cedar, mother robin flew off the nest and let us know we were intruders, pesky intruders! I talked to her: “Don’t worry, Mother Robin. We’ll soon be done.” I’m sure she knows my voice, hearing it from the bedroom windows above her abode.

My husband witnessed the parents ferociously shoo off a grey squirrel recently who was trying to get a drink at “their” rock well. They swooped down close enough to peck its eyes out, uttering deafening screeches! Lloyd almost felt sorry for the thirsty old squirrel.

Between the robins and the chickadees whose nursery is in a gourd among the lilacs, the old walnut tree should be pretty healthy this year, judging from the birds’ non-stop forays among its branches to fetch bugs, beetles and wiggly things for their hatchlings.

The other day when we took Sparkle for a walk in Old Doon, a robin serenaded us from the treetops. Turn your sound on and enjoy the cheery repertoire of the robin  here.

A Wave 40 years in the Making

A Wave 40 Years in the Making

It was 1984 and we were preparing to return to Canada from Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands, where we served for 11 years with Trans World Radio. Treasured pieces of driftwood were selected and packed into some of our barrels.

One incredible piece was carefully wrapped and placed into a crate beside larger items. It is absolutely huge, absolutely breathtaking! Its gorgeous shape is riddled with holes and cavities! Where had it once grown, in Africa?

Driftwooding was one of my favourite pastimes!

One small, dark piece of driftwood sat at the back of my husband’s workbench for years. Last month, I decided to do something with it—what—I did not know.

I began sanding its rough exterior. Judging from dried bits of black tar on its dull surface, it must have jostled its way through oil spills on the high seas before being tossed onto Bonaire’s windswept east coast by powerful waves crashing against its jagged rocks.

My husband gave the piece two coats of white paint . . . and voila! . . .  before our eyes was a wave cresting . . . about to flow . . . toward shore.

You may read about our adventures on Bonaire in “Little Dutch Isle” available on Amazon.

Intrusion by Non-verbal Artist

Evidence of his astounding artistry was right there in front of me . . . but he left without saying a word!

I knew full well who he was, even his nickname . . . and had no notion of calling 911.

Childhood memories instantly thrilled me! I grabbed the camera.

On the windowpane of our front door, Jack Frost had etched exquisite palm fronds and ferns—just like he did when I was a kid on the farm! Me and my younger sister shared an upper bedroom and were enchanted by similar winter artistry on windowpane ‘canvases.’

Photo taken January 17, 2024

(Frames by Verne, Kitchener, Ontario, made the acrylic face-mount of my photo, printing it on the back of optically clear acrylic which is completely washable and fade resistant, and, I might add, inexpensive.)

EXACTLY as it was in the ’70s!

THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS were made on January 2, 2024, by Kira Roberts in Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands, and were posted in the Facebook group, Americans on Bonaire:

“I’m really enjoying this book published in 2017 about a Canadian family and their eleven years spent in Bonaire. It is amazing how much is still EXACTLY as it was in the ‘70s (starting in 1973).”

“Today I was reading about the extensive fireworks displays put on by Bonairians. Listen to this, “There was no point in not celebrating the arrival of the New Year. The island literally blew up! Only the stone deaf could sleep through such a ‘bombing’. Bonairians of all stripes outspent themselves to purchase fireworks because they thought the fireworks would scare away the evil spirits from entering the new year. At midnight, it was a cacophony of pops, BANGS! Oohs! and Ahs! The black sky was pricked and spangled with exploding fireworks popping out in various colors! A sulphur-like smell hung in the blue fog everywhere! Downtown curbs were chucked full of bits of red paper.”

“If you’ve experienced New Year’s Eve in Bonaire, you’ll agree that it still describes it perfectly 49 years later!

The book mentions Captain Don, many of the local landmarks, and customs. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, and living it too! Thanks for the loan, Marianne Nagtegaal!”

Little Dutch Isle is available on Amazon here.

Whatever is this?

This week, while watering a palm that had been part of a potted arrangement several years ago, I was astonished and delighted to see amongst the fronds a sprig with tiny balls on it!

Having lived for eleven years on a semi-tropical island, the sight of palms transmits a sense of peace.

But what kind of palm was this—a date palm?

I called Sheridan’s Nursery. The clerk suggested it might be a Bella palm. Looking up photos of Bella palms on Google, I read that the Bella palm is native to the rainforests of Guatemala and southern Mexico. It thrives in bright, indirect light and produces tiny yellow flowers! The west window by the countertop in our kitchen supplies just the right light for this graceful little palm.

And speaking of palms, our son, John, who winters on Bonaire, enjoys the sight of huge palm trees around his complex—and most everywhere else—other than in the mondi (wasteland of cacti).

Many of us have recently seen large palm trees on Christmas cards which depict the magi’s visit to Bethlehem. Following a star, they had travelled from the East to worship Israel’s newborn King—the Christ child—Immanuel—God with us.

As 2023 draws to a close, I’ll be searching through my files of photos for more than the identity of little palms. Whatever is chosen will be painted in oil. I find this medium totally relaxing because any flaws can be painted over—and needed improvements are easily made. You would never guess what lies below some of my paintings—and my husband is sworn to absolute secrecy!

The CAREGIVER’S Cookbook is now available

If you have suddenly been thrust into the role of caregiver

— or if you are a student on a budget —

let Eleanor help you prepare inexpensive meals from scratch!

When Eleanor was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2021, her husband, Lloyd, couldn’t boil water without burning it! Eleanor began writing out simple recipes for him. As Lloyd tried to cook, the need for HOW-TO instructions became clear.

Take heart! If you can read—you can COOK—thanks to this book!

Check out The Author page:

Coming Up!

Be on the lookout for the soon-coming announcement of my latest book, “The Caregiver’s Cookbook.”

Why such a book?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the dilemmas we faced was that my husband, Lloyd, couldn’t boil water without burning it!

I began writing out simple recipes for porridge, bacon and eggs, etc. and labelled the various canisters’ contents. Lloyd tried to follow the recipes, but it soon became evident that the recipes needed to include how-to instructions.

Then it occurred to me:

If Lloyd is helpless in the kitchen, no doubt many others are also who have suddenly been thrust into the role of caregiver – or who are students trying to survive on a limited budget.

Combing through my recipe boxes and cookbooks, I chose recipes old and new that would provide nutritious and inexpensive meals. Tucked in here and there are anecdotes about certain recipes and credits to the friend who shared them with me. Also sprinkled among its 182 pages are inspirational quotes from sages of the past.

A UNIQUE ASPECT OF RECIPES is how they bring back warm memories of the one who shared them with you . . . the one who continues to help you in the kitchen . . . the one who blesses those who put their feet under your table.

Besides a new book, may I encourage you to find out what is coming up in the woods near you. Here is what we found yesterday on our walk with Sparkle – White Dogtooth Violets.

Ah, a Fresh Tube Steak!

“There’s a robin!” called my husband from the living room.

I grabbed my Smartphone and slowly raised it to the picture window.

The site of perky Father Robin filled me with sheer joy—the last Monday of March!

I clicked shot after shot.

I watched as he bent low, listening for the sounds of a fishworm.

Success! He pulled a tube steak up and out!

While Father Robin doesn’t need a cookbook,  maybe you do.

Perhaps your loved one is sick and you need to provide meals but don’t know how to begin.

Maybe you are a student away from home for the first time and you can’t afford restaurant meals.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2021, my husband couldn’t boil water without burning it! I began writing out simple recipes for him like porridge, scrambled eggs, etc. Then it occurred to me that other caregivers and students might be as helpless as Lloyd. That was the inspiration for creating “Cookbook for Caregivers & Students.”

Watch for it on Amazon later this spring! How-To instructions are on every line!  

Getting To and From

During our on-again, off-again winter, a little red squirrel used the top of our backyard fence as a runway.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch him jumping along the rail but shot the snow-scalloped top rail through the screened studio window sometime afterwards. (Unfortunately, its screen is the type that cannot be moved aside.)

The red squirrel visits our front yard every day, eager to gobble up any sunflower seeds the birds happen to bump out of the feeder tray.

He takes off like lightning if I happen to let our little dog, Sparkle, out, and, believe me, gentle Sparkle explodes with speed—but the red squirrel always manages to zip to safety through the wire fence at the base of the cedars.

Come fall, the red squirrel guards the nuts in the black walnut tree at the edge of the forest adjacent to our back fence. He will NOT tolerate any black or grey squirrels coming near it! What a noisy scolding they get as he fiercely chases them off!

BTW, I fell in love with red squirrels years ago and painted one of them.×9-acrylic/

From my fireside to yours!

I hope you found the images on my website delightful . . . and that the time spent was an uplifting part of your day.

Many thanks for forwarding to your acquaintances.

May you enjoy the healthy reward of seeking out “whatever is lovely” in 2023!

Eleanor Joy McDonald

Exciting Hues

This fall, everyone said the same thing: “I’ve never seen such vivid colours!”

Some claimed that we had more colour here in southern Ontario than folks had further up north. They theorized that it was caused by a spell of dry weather. It certainly wasn’t frost. Frost was almost non-existent. The temperature barely ever dipped to more than one measly degree below zero.

While painting Frolicsome Filly, I didn’t have to drive very far for reference material. In fact, one maple viewed from our side kitchen window cranked up its glow on a daily basis!

I photographed other maples during our walks with Sparkle.  

My husband, Lloyd, with Sparkle on the Windrush Trail near Doon Public School
Trail off of River Road, Kitchener, October 17, 2022

Hopefully, some of these exciting hues made it onto the canvas.

Entrance of trail to Wilson Avenue off of Mill Park Drive, squirrel condo and all! October 12, 2022
Lookout over the Grand River at end of Wilson Avenue, Kitchener. October 11, 2022

The breathtaking dazzle of this year’s autumn glory can only be hinted at on the canvas of Frolicsome Filly!

Windmills There and Windmills Here

Back in 1947, something life-changing happened in Grade Three.

A very blonde-haired girl began attending our two-room school in Hickson, having emigrated from Holland. At recess, she would juggle several balls at a time against the rug brick wall! I liked her.

To help us learn about our classmate’s recently war-ravaged country, our teacher began social study lessons on Holland. I FELL IN LOVE with its windmills, red balls of Edam cheese, wooden shoes, and the lacy white-winged bonnets ladies wore whenever they donned the official Dutch costume. And Holland grew and exported tulips, tulips of all kinds! Every year, in gratitude for the Canadian soldiers who helped free their country during the Second World War, Holland sends an abundance of tulips to Ottawa.

Years later, married and with three children, my husband Lloyd and I served on the Island of Bonaire with the Christian station of Trans World Radio from 1973-1984. Bonaire is a Dutch island in the southern Caribbean. I don’t believe we ever bought a red ball of cheese, but we often purchased a wheel of soft, young Gouda.

At that time, education on Bonaire went up to the equivalent of our Grade Eleven which meant that graduating TWR staff children returned to the home country of their parents to further their schooling. The staff went all out to make each graduation memorable. For two of the girls, the theme for the celebration was “Tulip Time in Holland.”   For a backdrop, 1one man on staff made a facsimile of a windmill. It was so large that its blades almost touched the ceiling as they swept around and around in the huge Activity Building.

His 2wife’s committee, which I was part of, made over 100 crepe-paper tulips. Some were placed along the banks of a paper river which flowed under a 3wooden rainbow bridge. Several groups of tulips bloomed behind a short picket fence. We still laugh whenever we remember the comical rendering of the skit, 4Tiptoe Through the Tulips.

Snazzy costumes were made for the 5waiters (younger staff children) who served a delicious Dutch menu at the banquet. They were often heard to say, Eet smakelijk! (Enjoy your meal!)

Such incredible send-offs for the graduates helped to somewhat ease the pain of the upcoming separations. There would be no quick, inexpensive connections with family back on the island. Email or What’s App had not yet been invented. Airmail took two weeks. Phone calls were beyond the missionary stipend.

A sister island, Aruba, dismantled an authentic windmill in Holland and reassembled it, turning it into Ye Olde Molen Restaurant.

I included a photo of this beautiful windmill on page 227 of my book “Little Dutch Isle” (available on Amazon).

Today, 12 tall, commercial, three-bladed windmills on Bonaire’s north-east coast near the Town of Rincon supply one-third of the island’s power.

Along with other treasured Delft pieces, a small replica of a windmill sits on the windowsill of one of our bathrooms.

You will often see me wearing tiny Dutch-shoe earrings with a windmill painted on their toe and two slightly larger Dutch shoes on a necklace.

This spring, Lloyd and I refinished a windmill that adorns a flowerbed in our backyard. We marvelled at its meticulous construction. Obviously, its creator was truly a lover of windmills.

When we walk our little dog, Sparkle, we often go to admire a large windmill in the heritage section of Upper Doon in Kitchener.

My Grade Three teacher had no idea how affected this little pig-tailed girl would be when she shared Holland with me and my classmates. 


  1. Don Beans
  2. Dianne Beans
  3. Bob Flaming
  4. Glenn Sink and Dan Canfield
  5. Left to right: John McDonald, Daniel McDonald, Rene Hogan, Sammy Montoya, Carol Lowell, Scott Hess, Carlos Montoya, Pam Hogan, Tommy Lowell


A Chipmunk’s Abode

It was time for Sparkle’s walk.

We drove to the Grand River Lookout located in the Homer Watson Woods at the dead-end of Wilson Avenue, Kitchener, some 10 minutes from our home.

Meandering through the woods, Lloyd’s curiosity was aroused by a hollow at the base of two conjoined trees.  We went over and observed a hole in the bottom of the hollow.

In a moment or two, now some 15 feet further along, Lloyd cried:

“Look over there! A chipmunk just popped out of that hole!”

She stood still for the longest while—uncharacteristic, as you know, of these tiny high-tailers.

You have probably seen the chipmunk in the middle panel of my triptych painting titled Woodland Wildflowers as well as the original portrait of a chipmunk titled Picnic in the Pines.

A beloved chipmunk is the main character in my bedtime story available on Amazon in both English and French entitled Mrs. Twigadoon or Mme Twigadoon.

Lloyd and I marvelled at the opportunity we had just experienced of photographing a non-moving chipmunk! As we continued on, coming upon a snowy-white trillium or a cluster of trilliums sparkling up the woodlands, the sense of delight was absolutely uplifting!

Yellow violets were also plentiful in the Homer Watson woods!

As one climbs the short knoll to Lookout, you actually walk through the chipmunk’s pantry . . . . . acorns plunked here and there along the pathways. No wonder. After all, hadn’t we just found a chipmunk’s abode?

Woodland Calligraphy

Have you ever sat down and tried to create a distinctive signature for yourself, one with some flare, some pizzaz? I don’t mean the kinky, straight-lined scrawl some professionals develop, but something artful, free-flowing, downright beautiful to behold!

Walking our dog, Sparkle, in the woods this week, I came upon this gorgeous signature:

When I took a recent oil painting into Frames by Verne, a local art gallery in Kitchener, for sale, the owner quickly scanned it for my signature before accepting it. The signature I have used over the years on the canvases is done in print style and placed where it won’t detract from the subject. It’s downright boring. See if you agree.

In search of Mrs. Twigadoon’s Home

On a near perfect day around the end of May, we headed toward Holiday Beach near New Hamburg where once upon a time we had a trailer. Mrs. Twigadoon (a chipmunk) set up housekeeping beneath the  stone ledge on our lot which bordered a flowered meadow rimmed by a big woods.

On our drive, I wanted to spend some time around bluebird houses we had seen bordering pastureland and try to photograph the gorgeous birds. My husband insisted that he had taken the right road, but this is the lone bluebird house we saw. . . and this is its imposter!

It was exciting to see a few beehives along the way and a herd of black angus cows grazing.

At the far corner of the pasture was a red cow which had recently given birth and was intently watching her calf licking itself.

Lloyd pulled some fragrant wild phlox for me from a ditch. Hopefully, it wouldn’t mind being transplanted into our citified garden.

Now, where were we? Lloyd checked the map on his Smart phone, and in just 5 minutes, we were driving up the shady laneway of Holiday Beach.

The neatly kept campgrounds had expanded a great deal since our stay in the late 90s and there were scarcely any natural areas left; no valleys covered in last year’s goldenrod, no. We remembered that we drove up an incline before turning left toward our trailer situated at the edge of a meadow.

It seemed our trailer would have been located about here with a view of the silver lake.

No, our trailer wasn’t at the end of this row either.

We did locate a small patch of woods, emphasis on ‘small.’

Ah, there was the willow tree at the far end of the lake! That’s the willow Mrs. Twigadoon had raced toward, trying to beat Grandma and Grandpa McDeedle there. They loved to sit on the bench beneath the old tree. Mrs. Twigadoon hid in a hollow of the willow, intent on doing some serious eavesdropping

Of course, we were disappointed that we could not locate the meadow or Mrs. Twigadoon’s home beneath the stone ledge. But you can find it on Amazon in the pages of Mrs. Twigadoon . . . or . . . Mme Twigadoon.

You can also find the words and music of a delightful lullaby which our children and granddaughter often drifted off to sleep with.

Around the Bend

Painting of Rocky Mountaineer Tree rounding a bend by Lake Shuswap, AB

Around the Bend – Latest Release!

My husband leaned out from the small platform between coaches to photograph the Rocky Mountaineer gliding around the bend beside Shuswap Lake, British Columbia.         

It was August of 2011. Our first trip out West was in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary.

After visiting flower-bedecked Victoria on Vancouver Island and the unbelievable Butchart Gardens, we ferried back to the mainland to board the Rocky Mountaineer Train in Vancouver.

Looking it up later on, I found that the lake in this painting, Shuswap, is situated near Salmon Arm. Made up of long bodies of water, it is shaped like an addled letter H, and is one of the most popular recreational destinations in south-central BC.

Something we did not realize was that Canada has desert regions. As we journeyed through barren areas and sagebrush towards Kamloops for an overnight, we were astonished to see irrigation systems spraying out water in order to grow hay!

Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer once again, the mountain scenery we were rolling by—and sometimes tunnelling through—could only be described as SPECTACULAR!

Lake Louise was as lovely as the photos we had seen.

Banff, nestled at the foot of mountains, had a cowboy feeling. Bronze manhole covers were works of art with handsome caribou engraved realistically on them.

Believe it or not, the only large wildlife I saw while going through the mountains was a black bear painted on a road sign! After arriving home and chatting with someone at the St. Jacobs Market, he said that we could have seen all kinds of mountain sheep—the reason I wanted to go through the Rockies in the first place—if we had taken the route to Jasper. Ve git too soon oldt and too late schmart.

View painting on here:

Brand New Bedtime Story!

Wish you had a new bedtime story for your children . . . one they could escape into right now?

Although the bookstores have been shut down temporarily, you can go to and look for . . . 

Mrs. Twigadoon is available in paperback and e-book. An audio version is in the works.

The setting of the story is a family campground where Grandma and Grandpa McDeedle become acquainted with the spunky chipmunk, Mrs. Twigadoon. Many lessons can be learned from her narrow escape.

Let your children sing along with the McDeedles’ granddaughter who serenades a bug in a bottle!

Mrs. Twigadoon! Thirty pages long, sparkling with coloured photos!

A Dream Come True

The timing of our walks with Sparkle is governed by the temperature and wind. The woodland’s hospitality ‘chair’ is a bit too cold to make use of today.

Our recently retired son, John, is spending six months on the island he grew up on, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. At the moment, he is in Curacao, a guest aboard a catamaran owned by John and Marilyn Dale, Christians from Florida whom he met at church on Bonaire. His lifelong dream of sailing has come true! Prior to setting sail, John gave them a tour of Bonaire and also some PADI scuba diving courses.

Catamaran Lagoon-42 built in France in 2019

John and Marilyn Dale head across the pontoon bridge into Punda, Curacao

John enjoying the tourist gig!

In the meantime, I am working on a 30×24” oil painting of the Rocky Mountaineer Train as it rounds a curve beside Shuswap Lake in B.C. Stay tuned.

Sniff it out

Sparkle’s curiosity amazes and amuses us. When something new arrives, say, on the countertop, she sits and looks up towards it, pops up and down, until you take it and let her sniff it. A sniff is all she wants.

There is something Sparkle wants you to sniff out.  Hopefully, before Valentine’s Day, you will find a new painting put up titled–Around the Bend. My husband and I were aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train in 2011 as it rounded a bend by beautiful Shuswap Lake, Alberta.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Thank God for November 17

November 17, 1957. That day changed my entire life—Lloyd (now my husband) asked me out for a date!

November 17, 2018, changed both of our lives—the day our son, John, drove us halfway around Lake Ontario to bring a puppy home—a toy breed— a spunky, lovable Papillon/Dachshund/Jack Russell terrier.

She lives up to her name, Sparkle, and serves as the official mascot for Mcdonald Art.

Preparing for her arrival, together with our good neighbour, Mike, we had an aging fence replaced. More fencing followed to keep her out of the rhubarb patch (harmful for doggie palates) and a gate was installed in the cedar-arch entry to the back yard.

The cedar hedging that wraps around the front yard had to be puppy-proofed as well. A short fence was installed around the inside perimeter and a gated arch installed at the beginning of the cobblestone sidewalk. Now the front yard is totally enclosed. We can open the front door whenever she rings an on-the-floor doorbell.

Inner fencing visible

Sometimes she rings the doorbell for other necessities like .  . . . time to play tug-of-war or catch. Ah, yes.

We had a few hair-raising episodes when she escaped out of the kitchen door and tore around the neighbour like a greyhound, barely touching the ground! Thankfully, some younger neighbours helped us coral the unrepentant Sparkle.

When we take a brief siesta after lunch on our La-z-boy sofa with its push-outs on either end, Lloyd scoops her up in his arms. Sparkle takes a siesta, too, between our legs—sometimes switching from one to the other.

Her soft bed is carried up each evening and placed in the hall outside our bedroom door so she can be near us.

Sparkle is serious about earning her keep. She wants you to know that each day, she dutifully manages to take her mistress and master out for a walk on different trails in south Kitchener and in the Homer Watson Woods which our home backs onto.  While she is busy sniffing everything in sight, I’m busy snapping photos. Thank God for November 17!