Summer 2017 in Review

I can’t believe I didn’t write anything about my summer home this….last year. It’s almost unthinkable. I can see why though. My time was so jammed packed I hardly had time to write at the end of the day. Thus, my memories will not be as fresh as they would have been all those months ago.

None of these accounts are in any chronological order. I can’t even begin at this point to piece together the days unless I look closely at the image files. At this point I don’t have the energy except to match the photos with each paragraph.


I flew into Sydney on the midnight flight. I love driving home at night. Ok. I love driving home anyways. Especially coming from the airport. The next morning we awoke very early to catch the ferry, which is a 2 and a half hour drive. From Sydney Forks to Pictou. Onward over the Northumberland Straight. Taking the ferry makes the whole experience a cherished tradition. Had my photography tour gone full speed ahead, I would have asked everyone to fly into Halifax instead of flying into Charlottown to have this experience. We arrived at my cousin’s place in Clyde River early evening. Enough time for a chat before we headed to the musical, “Anne and Gilbert”, in which my little cousin was one of the school children. What an amazing little actress, singer and dancer she is. Her talents know no bounds. The Musical itself was excellent. This production was not at the Convention Centre, but in a small community theater with a lower level art gallery and a bar that served fantastic local craft beer. One of the actresses had set up a stand selling cupcakes and tartlets. As she played the infamous Josie Pie, she called her company, “Josie’s Pies”. I recommend seeing the play if you’re spending time on the island. Not just because of my little cousin, but because I firmly believe, when in Rome, one should absolutely see an “Anne of Green Gables” play.

Before heading to Cavendish that day, we ambled back into Charlottown for site seeing, shopping and brunch at an amazing spot called Brickhouse on Sydney St. A cozy spot, well decorated with stunning pieces of artwork on the walls. The coffee was not your average cup of joe which made it all the more enjoyable. All though the brunch menu seemed average the dressing of was not and very delicious. The clientele was a little slow as brunches go, but I would go back when next in town.

As you know, I posted that I am no longer doing my photography tours. Prince Edward Island was suppose to have been this summer, but since no one signed up, I cancelled all the rooms at The Lake of Shining Waters Resort except for a room for Mom and I. The inn was very quaint with decor that suited its history. We had a small room with a double bed and a full bath, which was lopsided so your head went downhill. The floors throughout the house were like this like small ripples in the water. After lugging the luggage into the room, we sat on the bed to catch our breath. Faintly, but getting stronger, we heard a distinct rhythmic creaking noise as though someone was swinging back and forth in a rocking chair.
“Mom.” I asked, “Do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
“It’s the Old Lady knitting in her rocking chair.”
“Stop it! I don’t want to stay here anymore!”
Still the chair continued rocking. I listened for a while, enjoying the rhythm, contemplating on who this person might have been. Perhaps she was not old at all: A young woman rocking her child to sleep, or perhaps an old man reading a book. But it was time to search of a place to eat. Our first choice, the Blue Oyster, was already queued up with an hour-long wait. Instead, we ended up at Captain’s Cove Cafe. The fish was fresh tasting, they served local craft beer, but other than that…meh. They weren’t even on Google Maps. At least, not until I put them there and wrote a review. When we returned to the room, the invisible rocking chair was still creaking. Mom was still unnerved by this, but I told her, “If it was a bad ghost, they would have done something bad by now, so, leave her alone.” Mom agreed and as if the ghost heard my champion, the creaking stopped and we were left in peace for the rest of the trip.

One of THE places to go in PEI is The Dunes Galley and Café. It’s a sprawling building with many chopped-up levels. Art of all kinds fill the walls and any available corner. The Art itself is unique, mesmerizing, fun and intense. Some pieces are affordable, others not so much. They range from blown glass fish bowls set erratically in driftwood to the usual paintings and usual photography to massive unique pieces of furniture, jewelry and clothing. They ship anywhere when you spend such-and-such a dollar amount. When you spend more than $75 you get a batiqued cotton shopping bag. If you don’t want to spend too much at the café, a coffee and desert is worth it. If you want to relax, the property has a Buddha garden to wander though with matured trees. Ponds freckle the property as well as the rooftop garden complete with greenery. Needless to say, one can spend an entire day at this place. Mom and I had another agenda however. Brackley Beach. Another must-do in PEI is go to any of the many beaches spread across the coastline. Brackley Beach is a personal favorite, but this year, we found a hidden part that our waitress at Rachel’s Restaurant recommended, Robinson Island. Drive past the parking lot, past the change houses along the dirt toad to a section where paths lead over the dunes to this oh so private part of the beach.

I had heard of the population growth of jellyfish this year, especially the onslaught of the dreaded Portuguese Man-O-war. Thankfully it was not as bad as I had thought. Though I didn’t come away unscathed. Such beautiful weather we had! Hot summer days, equaling Toronto weather. I had to laugh when I thought about a friend talking about going to an exotic destination with beaches for her vacation. I tried to convince her to come to PEI with me for this exact purpose, but I only received “the look” for my pains. The thing I like about Brackley Beach and you may see a trend here, is that as you can walk out, it get’s deep to your knees then shallow again for quite a while. Here I lay letting the waves lap over me, ever cautious of jellyfish, feeling my hair sweep from one side to the other in the current. I even wadded back to get my phone taking a series of photos, later stitched as an animation to capture this. I am a fish myself, as you know. I could have stayed in the water all day. I had work to do however.

After drying off, I went to the car to stealthily change from my modern bathing suite to my new Edwardian walking suite. As I emerged from the car, I already had curious looks from those who were coming and going. It wasn’t until I crested the dune with the water ahead of me, that I completely felt myself in the here and….. then???? One of the “Anne of Green Gables” scene that pops into mind is when Anne and Diana are standing on a dune watching the setting sun on the water after the concert at The White Sands Hotel. “We are rich Diana…” Anne says to her bosom friend. Mom was such a trooper staying behind the camera, pressing the shutter button as I slipped from pose to pose. Photographing myself on the beach in my costume was a must for me. Even though I zigged-zagged around small jelly fish, skirts held up, I was stung in the end by a sneaky little bugger whose tentacles must have been long indeed or was swept speedily away by the current because I didn’t see it come or go. Turned out that picture of me looking for the F%^&er was one of the nicest images from that day. Take photos in costume at the beach…check!

A kind of frenzy happened when we returned home. As I mentioned in my Christmas blog, I wanted to do some clearing in the back yard. Well, I didn’t start with the pine trees as I had hopped. Somehow they looked denser in the summer than they did in the winter and thus more intimidating. Instead I cleared weeds and weed trees from around the more matured trees. Of the larger pine trees that served as sentinels and borders, I hacked off their lower branches that were tangled in long grass. Now that this was done, the father and son team who mow the lawn were able to whipper-snip under and around making for a beautiful manicured lawn. When my neighbour mowed his lawn… WOW! All of a sudden our lawns amalgamated into one beautiful park like setting. Because the backyard looked so wonderful I really lamented the fact that I had to go back to Toronto. When I returned, there were evenings and weekends where I itched to get back with saw, clippers, wheelbarrow and gardening gloves. LOL. With all the brush I laid on my neighours bon fire pile AND the crap from the basement there was a merry fire indeed. I made banana boats for everyone to celebrate. Though in the end it was only Kevin and I. We sat and watched the fire dance while he updated me on local happenings. I learned my school fellows had exceeded to amazing careers, we listened to music that miraculously carried over Blackettes Lake as though it were just across the street. Best of all, we patted ourselves on the back for such a marvelous job we did to make our backyards beautiful together.

The next morning, I woke up looking at an antique coffee table in my bedroom. “I know what I’m going to do with you!” I told it. I lugged this, my great grandmothers rocking chair, an old blanket that resembles a tapestry, my grandmothers Old Country Rose tea set, a jar of freshly made strawberry jam, much sought for tea biskets, milk and sugar up the hill in the beautiful morning summer sunshine. As I was dragging all this up the hill, I was complaining to Mom that I hadn’t seen Robert since we got back from PEI. Usually he pops in the day of or the day after I get home and we have many great adventures. Then ta-daaaaaa! Here he comes up the driveway. I run out of the house giving him a big hug and say, “Guess what you’re doing today?” I think he had something completely different in mind, but he wasn’t at all adverse to immersing himself in my project for the afternoon. He even came with me into Sydney River in search for the elusive tea biskets. *Shout out to Robert for helping me that day. I had so much fun. Especially when you took the camera off the tripod and for capturing most of it on video with your Olympus.* At one point he had asked if I needed (waving his had over my tableau) all of this exclaiming, “They wouldn’t have dragged all this out to have a picnic.” Excuse me? “Of course they would have!” I cried stoutly defending the Edwardians. I had a firm image in my head that was going to get out one way or another. In doing this shoot, I wanted to create more casual images. Life at home so to speak. The first of the snap shots. For it was in 1900 when the Brownie camera came out. Almost every household had it. Even Lucy Maud documented aspects of her life throughout her adult years in PEI and Ontario. Film would be sent to the Kodak plant for processing and returned with a new roll in the camera, ready to go. How wonderful it must have been to have the advent of accessible photography. I often equate these beginnings to those of digital photography. If I’ve said it before, the feeling is as true now as it was then.

Every summer I go hiking. Robert’s suggestion of Devil’s Hill Falls was not a disappointment. It’s located just off the Louisbourg Highway on New Boston Rd. No doubt named for the American contingent of soldiers during one of the English invasions on the Fortress three centuries ago. Make a right onto New Boston and then a left at the end of the road. Just beyond this intersection, is the entrance to the trail on the right handside. You climb a slope to a small bridge where the trail crosses a babbling brook. There is a steep and somewhat tricky climb down but you can keep following a succession of mini falls. Just so, when you follow the brook on the other side, leading away from the ocean. Such beautiful green foliage and moss making the whole area like a fairy Queendome! There were MANY great spots for future photo shoots, the kind with a model draped over the edge or over a rock in sorrow or martyrdom wearing a gossamer gown that is pulled by the waters current. ARGH! AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING! But I’ll get to that later. There are many dreamy vistas to photograph without a model as well. Throughout the hike, I looked longingly into each pool picturing myself luxuriating in its fresh waters. Wow! Did that bubble burst quickly when I dangled my feet in one. It was decidedly too cold. I hate getting older or being sensitized to Ontario’s climate, I’m not quite sure which one it is. It makes me feel as though I am not made from the hardier Cape Breton stock after all. Robert and I spent the morning tramping up and down and all around, making plans to come back next summer to make more of a path and other improvements. It got it’s name from the time in Cape Breton folklore when a drunken man arrived home late one evening from a local dance claiming he met the devil along the way as an excuse for his tardiness to his wife. The Devil heard this, signing the poor fellow’s death warrant.

The same afternoon was spent hiking (my first time) the Lighthouse Trail. It was a misty overcast day, typical of Louisbourg weather, the ocean ahead of us full of movement. At one point we deviated from the path (as we always do) to climb the larger rocks across the many tidal pools. I was enamored with the grain in the rock, taking many of my micro landscapes. We walked as far as the cove where we sat on the rocky beach looking out across the ocean to invisible France, imagining the tall ships sailing into harbour. Before leaving the Town of Louisbourg, not to be confused with the fortress itself, we had a great scoff of chip-truck-fries, which seem amazing now even though I fussed and stomped my foot at the time for not eating at places I haven’t tried yet, like the sushi and East Indian restaurants.

Before leaving Toronto, I put a casting call on Model Mayhem hoping to find a model in Sydney or the surrounding area to continue my Water Nymph portraits. There’s a lake just off the highway to Baddeck that is shallow enough to serve the purpose. I only had one response to my inquiry, a model in Halifax, 5 hours away. She really liked my idea and was sorry she was so far away. Other than that, nothing. I even reached out to Ratchford Studios in North Sydney who seems to have no end of models streaming into his studio. His receptionist suggested keeping watch on Facebook for a list he would post, but he did not. I don’t understand why there isn’t more of a network for this kind if thing. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because there’re aren’t many model photographers in Sydney and mostly all the commercial photographers who have their own studios do family, graduation and school portraits. If anyone in Cape Breton is reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. When I move home, one of the things I’d like to establish is a network for artists. Connecting models with photographers and other artists. When George, Chad and I met at Breton Brewing to hang out and chat art speak, we discussed this idea as well as other aspects of stepping up the creative photography game in Sydney. It was a fun meeting and we came up with lots of ideas that lead to the creation of a private facebook page. We decided that there aren’t enough galleries in Sydney that catered to the emerging artist. Sydney is becoming a bourgeoning arts community, faster than ever before. It’s as if someone has finally grabbed the average Joe by the horns forcing the meat and potato public to appreciate and respect what local artists have to offer. I’ve learned recently, my old high school, Holy Angels, is destined for a redesign into an arts centre. How amazing and how fitting! For once in my life, I actually enjoyed going school because of Holy Angels.

It was a chilly day when we finally found the time to visit Point Micheaud. I brought my bathing suit, but there hardly was any sun to bath in and there was no way I was getting in the water that day. Instead, we took our usual walk up the expanse of beach taking pictures of all kinds of seaweed and collecting many rocks and shells. We observed a woman looking into patches of beach pebbles washed in and out with the tide. When we caught up with her, the three of us stood, mesmerized by the surf swirling around our ankles patiently waiting to see a revelation of hidden treasures.

Lick-A-Chick never disappoints me. It’s the best fried chicken ever. It’s always consistent with a healthy line up. The locals never grumble if they wait too long. What place better to enjoy it than the great outdoors. Groves Point has become out traditional picnic spot were we seek the same picnic table, to have our mean, bring our books, blanket, chair, bathing suite and towels. The day was so fine, the water so warm I lived in it. Thanks to the weekend at the cottage, I was desensitized to seaweed. Seaweed in the Bras ‘d Or Lakes was always the bain of my existence when I was younger.

Farmers Markets are always an adventure. When traveling home, I like to experience many. For the first time, I went to the Farmers Market in Mabou. If one is to travel to the other side of the island, it has to be a day trip. And boy, was it ever. I can’t remember the last time I was in that are but it was many, many years before I moved to Toronto. I forgot how much more majestic the hills were. How much more the country the country side is. The Irish and Scottish immigrants must have held their breath as the ships came closer to land. To see that this was some semblance to the home they’ve left behind so many miles away. The Market is in an arena with vendors taking up every corner. Breton Brewing that summer had a wonderful beer that was aged in a Chardonnay Oak cask. Music to my ears! I wasn’t disappointed with its taste either. In fact, before I left home I bought another bottle (at the Keltic Dr. Farmers Market) to bring back to Toronto for a friend to appreciate. I’m happy to report that they liked it just as much as I did. After the market, we went to The Red Shoe, the most famous restaurant in Cape Breton. It’s claim to fame? The Rankin’s of course! Owned by the Rankin’s not to disappoint in entertainment, food, local craft beer, wine or atmosphere.

Inverness Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Breton. I don’t remember ever being there, though Mom said I was as a child. We walked a bit at one end, then another. Since it was the last opportunity to swim in the Atlantic, I slipped into the sun setting waters relishing yet fighting the current. I’m lucky to be such a strong swimmer, marveling in its strength as I swam back into the shore again and again. I can see how someone could be swept away. I think on it now as though reaching to grasp at a profound dream quickly fading. Although the pull of the ocean is freighting, I’m in love with it.

If I may, your backyard can hold as much adventure or more than an all inclusive resort trip.

Day 8 June 12

For a few days now, we were talking about going to a salt spring or swimming somewhere. I thought perhaps returning to Robida Grand and swimming there would have been fun. In stead, we went to a place much better and more unique. Once piled into two taxis we set out for the heart of the island where there’s an active volcano. On it’s slope lay thermal pools, natures hot tub where people sit and relax gazing up to the sky through thick palm tree fronds.

When Jeniffer was here 7 years ago, the pools were coveted by the locals who use to drive straight in. Today it’s a park with bathrooms and change room facilities even a little museum illustrating the volcano’s history, geology, flora and fauna.

There are actually two pools. The original one has cooled down since the last time Jeniffer and her family were there. But it’s a larger, deeper pool with enough room to spread out and swim from one side to the other. The other pool was a tepid 30 degrees. Too hot for my liking though I did take the time to relax. But if you know me, you know I cannot JUST sit for long. I’ve gotta be doing. Which is why I eventually went to the cooler pool to stretch out. When we all piled out, I tried to sketch the pool, without the people, but I’m not as fond of it as the ones I did with buildings in it. Probably because I was never that good at drawing foliage and in this case,  there was too much of it.

For lunch, we spent the rest of our time at a picnic area with a chip truck perched at the mouth of the entrance way. Next to it and I suppose owned by the same person was a gift pavilion where I bought most of my gifts to bring home. Since being here, this was bar-none the best place for souvenirs. I would buy something, see something else, buy that, see something else, until I hard to reign myself in. The most unique gifts were those made with cork. I didn’t know it until this day, but Sao Miquel or Portugal as a whole grows cork trees. Corks for whine bottles, and other things are from the bark of a cork tree which is torn off the trunk and laid out to dry out then processed. I bought a shot glass for FFC (Friday Fun Club) covered with cork and a cow painted on it. 3 women’s and 1 men’s wallets made with cork. a clay bird whistle that actually sounds like a bird when you have water in it (for FFC), a combo shoehorn/back scratcher for my sewing family, Marianne and Hans, and I can’t remember what else!

What a fun day!! Nature in places unfamiliar is just as mesmerizing and wonderful as in your own backyard. I’m sure there are many great parks on the island, but I highly recommend this one. Especially since the entrance fee was only 2 Euros.

Before I close this article, a cute thing that happened before we left for the thermal pool. Up until this day, my allergies were non-existent. Yet, somehow……. this morning….. when I went for a walk outside the village  towards open space, I stopped at a street sweeping up from the ocean to the main road. Along it were three stone row houses with a field of bamboo at the end. At intervals, I would sneeze. As a did so at one point a taxi with it’s windows rolled down called out to me, what assumed was “bless you” in Portuguese. How sweet and funny. I called out, “thank you!” in English and Portuguese, as he sped away through the round-about.

Day 7 – June 11th

OMG! I can’t believe my trip is coming to a close! I leave on Tuesday around 4pm. Although I’m sad to leave this place, I long for my quiet apartment. Many aspects of the island are like home – Cape Breton and Newfoundland – so when I do go home, I’ll get to compare the geography and culture.

I was the first to rise this morning. I got a shower, had breakfast and made my way up the street to see if there were any stores open to replace my Tom’s. It being Sunday and still mid festival, none of the shops were open except convenience stores. I rather expected this, so brought my sketchbook and pencils and found a quiet courtyard of a smaller church with an attached playground beside it. I sat on a sunny wall sketching the edge of the church and the buildings beyond. This time, my perspective was better. When I got back to the house, none of the girls had arisen from bed. I was sorely tempted to venture out again, but I knew we were to go to a family dinner not too far away for 1pm. As it was, we didn’t arrive until 3pm. Not quite sure what happened there. Maybe this is just another example of island time.

At first it was a little awkward. As there were many more people there. Then there’s the language barrier, but that soon passed when I gravitated towards the younger kids playing volleyball and monkey in the middle. Some things are universal and gestures help. So does beer, wine and port. All the food was prepared on an outside wood burning BBQ. Everything was amazing. The cold slaw was not as vinegary as we Canadians make it. The mayo in the potato salad was made from scratch and also less vinegary. The chicken wings and ribs were large and seasoned to perfection. They also cooked sardines, but I haven’t developed a taste for this particular fish, so I left those alone. There’s something to be said for a family feast.

We walked home. But oddly enough, I seemed to be the only one to find our way back even though it was only a left onto the main road leading to the house. It was pretty much low key after that. I reorganized my suite case as I tend to do when it gets a little too chaotic, contributed to my blog and was sociable when visitors arrived.

Day 5 – June 9th

Not sure what to write about this day. It was raining on and off. At one point when the rain lessened to a drizzle, I took the opportunity to stretch my legs. I tried the church to sketch the interior, but it was closed so I decide to go to the wall on top of the cliffs just a block up. Here, I sketched the cliff and the buildings perched precariously above. One section that was particularly eroded had a cave, the buildings above are abandoned having collapsed from the inside it’s inhabitants forced to relocate. One of these houses is directly across the street from Jeniffer’s family. In the coming years, the entire building will fall down the cliff onto the marina below.

I came back to the house, hung out, did nothing, not even writing anything because I prefer to write about the day before going to bed or the next morning. This day is being written the day after next. The reason you’ll see in the next entry.

Because I wasn’t able to sit still and the rain had again subsided to a drizzle, I set out again, this time towards the ocean. I sketched the outcrop of land, all the little rock islands and the misty rolling hills beyond. I commented in a whats app message to Mom that I drew this landscape much closer than it actually was. I’m not sure how this happens. Clearly, I have to practice my perspective.

Back again to fill in the sketches I’ve done so far with a thin sharpie marker. I sat at the kitchen table with the family listening to the Portuguese language. I not a proficient in any language, but it seems to me there are some French words and influxes that float through the language probably because it’s all a derivative of Latin. The words sound to me like a rushing brook after the snow has melted or a heavy rain.

At dusk, the rain stopped all together in time for the procession. It’s made up of festival committee members, the priest, young and old members of the church and finally a marching band. There was a splendid aray of fireworks, not just the loud ones the locals have been setting off throughout the day – everyday since I’ve been here – but some worthy of those set off in the Beaches on Victoria or Canada Day. There were set off only yards away, I flinch at the noise and the light. Because of this I sometimes think one of my past lives must have been during a war. The memory of exploding bombs and flashes of light would have been terrifying for me at the time.

After the procession, we went to a square where the sacrificial bulls were being butchered. 35 bulls were slaughtered for this religious festival. Those who donated money to the church were given so many pounds of beef, sweet bread and wine. I’m not opposed to this as this was how it was done for many generations and hopefully the tradition will be kept alive. Traditions are not without its updates however. Where once the bulls would run through the streets, they are now paraded in carts throughout the village. I have to admit my disappointment for not seeing a heard of bulls at close range careening through the streets. Hey, I’m not going to lie, I’m a huge beef eater. You have your opinions, I have mine.

* At some point during this day, I was sitting at the kitchen table and noticed the sky looked rather pinkish. This being the perfect opportunity to photograph a sunset, I asked who would the be interested in going. Rosy, a huge fan of sunsets, Vicky and her friend Kayla decided to go.

After the procession, The family with the twins came over and chatted for a while. They are such pretty girls, I asked them to model for me to test an idea I found on Pinterest.*

* – Written June 25th

Day 4 – June 8th

It was decided that we would go to the next largest town, Ribeira Grand, to buy gifts and Edwarda a patio table with chairs. We all pitched in, 20 euros each. What a fantastic surprise this would be for her after everything she’s done and will do for us to make our stay comfortable.

The town it seems, has one main commercial drag of shops restaurants and other stores. The first store we went to was a gift store along with a . . . FABRIC STORE! There was some beautiful fabric there, especially one bolt of printed linin of soft blue colours at 28 and change euros a meter. I was not surprised, as linin seems to be consistently this expensive. It is a natural fiber after all. After searching their buttons for something for my Bib front skirt, I settled on a pretty navy blue taffeta ribbon that I will use to decorate a straw boater hat I have. The ribbon cost 1.50 euros per meter.

Further east is a beautiful park with waterfalls and an old mill. This appears to be the central park of Ribeira Grand lined with stones walls and oddly enough a tennis court. Its gardens are lined with hydrangeas and birds of paradise. Hydrangeas are the national follower here growing like weeds. They are one of my favourite flowers! After this we searched for a place to have lunch. There were signs directing you to the areas of interest including the community pools and restaurants, but there wasn’t anything that really tickled our fancy until we found a place right by the ocean called Azores Spot. The view was fantastic! Below were 4 chlorine pools including a wadding pool, one with a diving board, a kiddies pool and “C” shaped one that encompassed the rest, I’m assuming, for lane swims. A fifth pool was a large pool filled with salt water from the ocean. I hope to go back here before I go. I don’t think this will happen as there’s talk about going to a hot spring. Either way, whatever we do, I’ll be fine with it.

We got a taxi back although I was really tempted to walk back as it was one straight road minus the rotaries back into the fishing village.

Not much to relay from the evening. I dumped my DSLR photos onto my computer and edited some of the images. Local family members came to visit with a Portuguese style carrot cake. MMMMMMmmmmmmm….. The fishermen’s festival; in it’s second night, raged until well past midnight. We had caught some of the acts. One a traditional folk band singing the praise of the village and another of young things singing more modern songs accompanied by the local hip-hop dancers. Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video to my blog, so I’ll try to add in my instagram announcement.

I’ll Have A Lazy Christmas

OK. Yes, I know it’s a little belated, posting what happened at Christmas this late, but whatever.

As my title suggests, I had a lazy Christmas. I don’t know exactly how that happened, especially since I was so reved up with my usual list of things to do and eat. But when it came down to it, after supper, Mom an I would habitually hit the sofa, turn on the TV and watch the news, The Star Trek Marathon, “Call the Midwife” and “Murdoch Mysteries” Christmas specials.

I so wanted to help around the house. Clean the basement, chop some wood, but somehow that all boiled down to collecting 5 garbage bags of stuff from the basement and just being there and hanging out with Mom. Which was very nice in itself.

So where does the photography come in? Sadly, I only took my DSLR out once. I brought with me my Bronika with the Polaroid back, speed light, studio stand, studio umbrella and all the necessities that go with that. On a particularly blustery snowy day, I convinced Mom to go to North Sydney so I can finally try out the much talked about Black Spoon. It was bar-none THE best meal I had during my entire holiday. Ok. With one exception…. two….. OK…..The best meal dining out. We had the special a zesty chicken sandwich, butternut squash soup and leafy green salad. More on my experience and other reviews, visit Google reviews. Can’t wait to have the waffle chicken sandwich. Unfortunately they were all out.

While in North Sydney, I visited my favorite boutique store called. La Quaintrelle Boutique. They have a beautiful mix of new vintage style clothing casual and formal with various accessories to go with your purchase. Underneath is an outdoor store, Escape Outdoors, which was refreshing to find because it just goes to show how active and green Cape Bretoner’s are becoming. It’s a great location for travelers as well. I mean hey, the ferry, to Newfoundland is just next door…ish. Granny’s was all the rage as well. There’s a new location on Archibald Avenue and Pierce St, located in one of the historical homes of North Sydney owned by the MacDonald’s – No, not the chain – In fact, my God Mother’s husband was born there. When inside the house you will see how well preserved and lovingly brought back to its old gleam of original wood work is. From top to bottom, this house shines as well as all the merchandise inside. I highly recommend it. See if you can spot the Fairy House when you visit.

On the way out, I asked that we stop at the Ballast Grounds so I can finally give my camera a proper workout. The dramatic clouds skimming by and the soft blowing snow made a great background for the vibrantly coloured fishing boats on land. “Should we get some lobster while we’re here?” Mom asked when I got back to the car. I immediately hopped back out with an enthusiastic, “YEAH!” I’m sure you saw my facebook post, but incase you didn’t we bought 3 beautiful, huge lobsters, totaling $45 and change. One was a female, but unfortunately, there wasn’t any roe. I dream of the roe I had in Cox’s Cove that summer. For that post, visit this link. The Lobsters were caught that day, brought to the ballast grounds an hour and cooked a half hour before we got there. MMMMMmmmmm…! They were so good!

One exciting moment of my holidays happened when driving along HWY 2 in Northside East Bay. My Friend Robert and I saw a crumbling house on the hill with even more crumbled barns. As it was late in the afternoon, we stuck to the house. We circled around and around looking for a safe way to get inside. In the end the passage beyond the mudroom was not so safe so in order to reach the living room on the other side of the kitchen, one has to climb up and over a fridge onto stove, onto a table that was precariously perched on the sloping floor into the basement. Man that was a beautiful table! In fact most of the wooden furniture – which were antiques probably dating back to the 1900’s, I might add, was still in great condition. Scattered in the back bedroom were Christmas cards (of all things) dating back to 1939! In the mess, I found an old photograph of a woman named Catherine Gillis – McKinnon and a set of her untouched hankies embroidered with delicate flowers. Spilling out of the seams of the house where the kitchen was, was various china ware. I picked up a pretty tea cup with Forget-Me-Not’s. Finally in the coal shed of all places, I found a shoe form for a rather large foot. Not sure if I should even be writing about this adventure. I’m a little possessive of this spot now that I know what treasures and photographic potential lay inside and out.

In the place of Photographer’s Anonymous, I hung out with George and his friend, at the Ugly Mug in Sydney River.  It was exactly what I needed. A relaxing chat about photography with like minded people, sipping on a hot chocolate, ’cause you know, I had 3 coffees that day. Chad, showed a book he had made of the photography he took in Japan. His compositions of inner city street photography are pleasantly restful for such a chaotic place. Your eye moves around the image smoothly, and of course, everyone is beautiful, even emotional in some way. I brought my lap top with me to show them “The Anachronist Project” and other things. I’m pleased they exhibited such a positive reaction to the images. George even planted the idea of seeing who in Cape Breton would let me photograph in their house that would be made up in the period. Annefield Manor, unfortunately, was JUST sold for a song and a dance. Damn! So I’ll solicit to Telegraph House in Baddeck or even so high as Bienn Bhreagh.

There never is enough time is there? To do the things you had planned. Things happen and you make alternative plans and somehow, without really knowing it, you roll with the punches. It’s the little surprises that keep me coming back for more. It’s the need to come home to spark that inspiration to perfect or keep alive an image or feeling that was so fleeting.