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.

Home Sweet Home – July 14

The Magic Wine Wine Bus Tour

*my apologies for this and subsequent blogs being over due. It’s been a busy trip so far.*

“What are we going to do before the wine tour?” We asked each other in the morning.

The wine bus would pick us up at the Wolfville Visitor’s Center so it made sense to park the car there and shop along the main drag. At one consignment shop, I bought a new purse large enough to organize my wallet, camera, lens, and laptop, yet another perfect Mary Poppins’s bottomless pit. I found it at an opportune time. My small day bag was a stretch to fit all of the above and with so much weight, the strap dug into my shoulder. I transferred everything on the counter right before the sale clerks eyes. She watched to the end, exclaiming when I neatly slid my phone neatly into a side pocket, “You even found a place for your phone!”

At the same store I bought a fantastic autumn duo flannel plaid shirt and wool knit vest. It was displayed together and I didn’t want to part with either of them. The lady (who I think was also the owner) was good enough to give me a bit of a discount on both. It will look very nice with warm black tights and high rubber boots for an outdoors, Kate Middleton look.

Shopping and lunch wasn’t enough to kill time so we found a bench in Wolfville park reading until it was time to go. Before I left Toronto I started, “The Life of Pi” I don’t know why I resisted it so long, maybe because it was all the rage. The writing is witty and humorous for such a serious situation you can’t help but laugh. I lounged on the grass atop my grandfathers CN red wool blanket under the trees and thought I have to discover a small park like this when I get back to TO. Greenwood for swimming, somewhere else for reading.

The wine bus is an antique double decker bus brought over from England. I don’t have to tell you, we sat at the top level. Robert, the driver, drove it from Halifax each morning, a two-hour drive, if that. It was very daunting being at the front. You’re in the overhang above the driver so it looks as though there isn’t enough room to clear the ditch on a sharp turn and it looks as though you will hit that tree sapling when the bus is parking even though you’re 3 feet away from it. But the low branches of trees whipped into the top window when the bus surged forth on its way from winery to winery. Because it was so hot this day, there was no thought of closing said window.

Domaine de Grand Pre was the first on the list. I had been here twice before. The last time with a group of photographers I took around the mainland. You know who you are. In my early days of tour guiding, I missed out on the opportunity of getting a tour and tasting from the lovely folks who work there, so we paid full price for tasters then. The tours of the vineyards and wineries are always interesting and indeed it was lack of research on my part. This time, though there were some differences of opinions, I found the Magic Wine Bus tour online and will recommend it to anyone.

Pete Luckett is a famous local fellow, at least we claim him as such because he was almost the first on the map for redefining grocery stores. When we first started Pete’s Frutique, the only other company he was in competition with at the time was Sobey’s. He originally came from England, originally setting up a fruit stand outside at a Nova Scotia Farmers market in the winter. He sold his stores, to concentrate on his vineyard. I’ve been to Luckett’s Vinyard twice before, last time with the same group of photographers who kicked up a big fuss about going just before I was to get on the highway heading back to Halifax. Each year I go, Luckett’s keeps getting better. The most predominant image of Luckett’s Vinyards is the old phone booth brought especially from Pete’s hometown that was literally around the corner from where he lived. He places it in the middle of the vineyard opening it up for the public, allowing them to make one long distance phone call to anywhere in North America. Forget the rose! One of the exciting developments this time around, was a Buried White and Buried Red. Buried, you say? According to our guide, the only other country who does this is Switzerland. Pete had built a vault 8 feet underground up the road to house oak casks of white and red that sit untouched for 3 to 4 years. I forget which. The resulting flavor is smooth, subtle, smoky and earthy resting on the tongue like a note of pleasant music. It was $38 a bottle and I bought the Buried White.

Sharing the Gaspereau Valley with Luckett’s Vinyards is L’Acadie. It’s all organic with an almost always cool breeze that comes down the slope. Because of this there are no insects. Sheep are allowed to graze in the early spring months before much of the vine is grown from the parent plant and eat the leaves, thus naturally fertilizing the soil. Admittedly, L’Acadie is not my favorite of wines, though I did have a nice red that was heavy and black in colour. This too had a nice earthy tone (you may be getting to know my tastes in wine by now.) when swirled around it clung to the edges and slowly slid down the glass. I didn’t buy anything here.

At each of the afore said wineries, we spent an hour. I thought to myself, great, what are we going to do for an hour? Time few buy however, and before we knew it, we were heading to the Gaspereau Winery to pick up the last of our group. At this last stop, the three of us didn’t have time for a last tasting, but only a quick run-in to get my Good Cheer Passport stamped and a taste of Baco Noir. Jeremy, our Magic Wine Bus tour guide, kindly cajoled the girl behind the tastings table. I admitted to him that I don’t like reds, but all the reds on this tour I’ve tasted thus far this year in Nova Scotia are far better than any of the Ontario red wines I’ve had in my 13 years of living there. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Wineries and Vinyards in Nova Scotia are still relatively young compared to some in Ontario, though Pelee remains my favorite from that province. Oh, and the Patio 9 Pink in Rockway. If they have it anymore.

Home Sweet Home – July 13th

Wolfville, Canning, Blomiden, Repeat

First the Rose´. Ever since I’ve had Patio 9 Pink and learned the LCBO doesn’t carry it anymore, I’ve been trying to find its equal. I’ve tried several Ontario wines; Lady Bug, Rose, and some bubbly sweet stuff. None of these I’ve been paying attention to what winery they’re from, though they are stacked in a holder in my kitchen in Toronto. Not like that’s going to help me now. The last rose´ wine I tried, however was from Muskoka Lakes Winery. I had one sip and declared that it was awful! I had another sip to make sure and after pulling face, I sipped once more for good measure. I have never tasted a wine so vinegary, tart and to put it mildly only good for cooking. But whoever heard of using a rose´ for cooking? Unless you were to make a salad dressing. I sincerely hope that the batch was bad and somehow it turned while enrute in the store or something. But I will not be recommending it to anyone, I’m sorry to say. What about Blomidon Rose´? Well, it was mildly floral in the beginning, but ended on a tart note, with the slightest hint of a vinegar. Keep in mind I’m comparing this with the Rockway Winery’s Patio Pink which was floral, very smooth with a mild, yet refreshing, taste of an English Blend tea. What can I say? Everything I’ve fallen in love with has been discontinued in stores. But I can always rent a car for the day and drive to Rockway. Hike some of the Bruce Trail and hit the winery.

There are two large dining room tables in the main house where Joan and her husband live. This is always set with antique cups and saucers. Breakfast is two slices of toast a poached egg in the middle, back bacon, coffee or tea, and juice. All for $3.50. You sit at one of the said tables with other guests who are willing to divulge who they are, what they do, why are the visiting, who their children are and ask the same questions in return which are always readily answered. This morning, I made some Muskoka coffee brought as a treat, thinking that Nova Scotia was not yet one with the Jones’s in this department. I was pleasantly surprised when Joan brought out a local blend that was pretty amazing. There is a Coffee Museum somewhere around here. If I remember, I’d like to visit it tomorrow, before or after out Magic Wine Bus tour. Then again we only have one more full day.

After breakfast we walked on an trail that ran atop one of the many dykes in Wolfville that were made centuries ago. They date back the the early 1700’s when a group of French Neutralist ,aka Acadians, came to Nova Scotia to settle. They made dykes to recede the ocean to create the fertile land we know today. There are many sections of the Annapolis valley you travel along where you technically are on the the ocean floor. We drove along one of these causeways on our way to Canning and eventually to Mount Blomidon. My main goal for traveling this way was to find boats docked at a warf at low tide. We passed one beyond Kingsport. I was blessed to be in the drivers seat today. I can tell you, I took full advantage of it. I stopped where I pleased though not so much as to piss my Mother or my Aunt off. Thankfully both understood and somewhat enjoyed the view or otherwise kept themselves preoccupied.

On the way back we stopped at Foxhill Cheese House, just outside of Port William’s. Their main line in the store at this time was about 8 different types of gouda, two types of cheddar and one feta. They had some of the cheeses cut for samples in dishes, when I came to the cheddar I was confused about which one was really the aged and which not. Perhaps the labels were mixed up. The 4 year old cheddar was so very creamy while the mild was dry and less moist. You’d think it would be the other way around. At least to us amateur cheese lovers. The girl at the counter was willing enough to give Mom and I a little tour. It was actually a talk. She brought us to a large window that looked into one of the processing rooms where another woman was cleaning up. When I asked our guide about the two cheddar cheeses, she said it was all a matter of how they processed it, though she wasn’t able to go into much detail and sadly, I forget most of what she said. It was another hot day. But what I do remember her saying about the milk is that they pasteurize it at a lower temperature so it doesn’t kill off all the bacteria, some of which, actually healthy to you. I use a similar example of hand sanitizer. If used excessively, it kills the good germs. She said that their milk is popular to those who may get ill from milk provided by larger corporations. An industry standard set long ago by the money grubbing bastards which diminished the sales of independent farms. Now they are making a come-back. One thing I’d like to point out and you can laugh at me for this, it won’t be the first time, is that there is a difference of taste between milk from Nova Scotia and milk from Ontario. Whatevs. Take it how you will.

At the begging of the trip, we all decided that we wanted to go to the Wolfville Farmers Market. There were’t many vendors. Most of them were food participating in the $10 meals. I can’t say for sure if this was for this particular Wednesday or every Wednesday. There was Pad Thai, Greek, Schnitzel, Moroccan, Pizza, and others. You pay your $10 and get something akin to Monopoly money in $2 increments. Salad and bread are free and after collecting this, you choose a vender for a main meal (we all chose to Moroccan) and another or the same for dessert. I had saffron chicken with rice that had cabbage, onion and chickpeas as a garnish. MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm. When the owners asked how it was, I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating when I told them it was AMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!! Even Auntie Rie liked it and she it not the adventurous international foody type. Sorry Auntie Rie. I love you! We bought nothing more at the market, simply took our leftovers and left for Allen’s Motel where we ended the night with drinking, playing Phase 10 and golf.

At the end of the day we all agreed, that were we to live here, we would hover go to a grocery store, but travel from farm or farmers markets to buy our food. IN comparing them with Ontario prices, the cost to do this would’t be that bad at all!!

Home Sweet Home – Tuesday, July 12th

Halifax to the Annapolis Valley

I was glad to leave the heat wave that reached Toronto today. Flying above the mainland skimming over the Atlantic brought a relief of freshness to my mind. The cold air on the floor
of the plane may have played a part to that. By the time we reached the tarmac in Halifax, my feet were near icicles. Although I researched the temp (21), I was absolutely convinced I would have to trade my sandals for socks and sneakers. Boy, was I wrong.

A blast of humidity swept through the cabin as soon as the door opened. Some of us stood in the arm to await our larger carry ons. Certainly, the need to trade footwear was no longer prominent. It was then the need to change my attire. Black tights and a long sleeve shirt. When we arrived at Allan’s Motel I changed into a dress my Aunt gave me. A purple strapless dress with a hand painted flower to one side.

After checking into our Motel in Kentville (because everything in Wolfville was booked), we hoofed it back into Wolfville making a much of a bee line as we could to the NSLC, though I kept calling it the LCBO. Same thing, different province. Once in the store, I zig-zagged to the Nova Scotia section, picking up a rose from Blomidon Estate Winery, Rumrunner Rum from Glenora in Cape Breton and a Halifax beer, Propeller a hefeweizen. So begins my annual exploration of all the new local wines and craft beers which seems to have skyrocketed in popularity as the craft beer in Ontario has. It’s nice to know that Nova Scotia in some way can keep up with the Joneses. In your face Ontario!

At Paddy’s Pub and Brewery, I tried two beers made in house. A Smoked Porter which was very rich in body, but creamy. It was smooth, and in no way intrusive in taste. The waiter said it had a smoked apple taste. While I could taste the smokiness, I couldn’t taste the apple no matter how much I rolled it around my tongue. Taste buds are so relative and it also depends on what beer you’re into. The next half pint, I tried an Annapolis Valley Ale which was lighter, better suited to a hot day like today, rich in flavour, a strong after taste that may have been better if it was the first and only beer you had. What I liked most about the AVA, was the earthy woody flavour. During our ordering, I asked about a tour of the brewery upstairs. I didn’t think that it would have come into fruition as I was thinking about future tours, or coming back with friends. Sure enough, someone working downstairs gave us a five minute tour. She admitted she never did a tour before but there was only three of us and we peppered her with some questions, and hopefully made her feel comfortable enough. At least until she accidentally flipped the switch to the Yeast mill, letting forth a loud grinding noise that startled us all. The light switch was next to said mill switch. Fishcakes were great by the way.