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 19th to 26th

Cape Breton

On Sunday Mom and I drove home from Halifax with a quick pit stop in New Glasgow to drop off Auntie Rie. We initially planned to stay the night, but once on the road, I just wanted to keep on going. I drove all the way home because being behind the wheel homeward bound is a right of passage. After St. Peter’s the roads are twisty-turney, following the Bras d’Or Lakes. It’s one of my favorite drives

Once home it’s a mixed sensation of calm and upheaval. It goes without saying that one has to plan carefully around a compressed list of to-do’s into a single week. I didn’t go to Louisbourg, Tasty Treat, Point Micheaud or Mira Gut. What I did do, I’ll try to recount.

Baddeck

Baddeck as some American’s pronounce it – Baad-deck. It sounds like a sheep’s brae when it comes out of their mouths. I wonder if they make the same mistake with the Bedeque in Prince Edward Island. One set of Americans, long ago, loved the community and decided to build a grand house a summer residence; Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mable. Baddeck is also know to many celebrities who anchor in the harbour for a time. These people include Jack Nicholson, David Bowie (God rest his soul) and others.

Every Wednesday there is a farmers market at the fire hall. If you’re in town, I highly reccommend going. Though, that was not our only purpose. I wanted to walk around the town then head to Uisge Ban Falls. It’s a 15 to 20 minute hike leading to a waterfall with picturesque scenery along the way. The winding of the river is pock-marked with boulders, fallen trees, lichen and moss. On either side the hill, trees rise to a dizzying height creating a cool green canopy. Usually when I go, there’s hardly anyone and you have the place pretty much to yourself. There were many this day even though it was threatening to rain. on the hike I was happy to discover some beautiful mushrooms. I’m not an expert and still have the task of researching them in the fungus book I bought in Newfoundland last year.

Out on the Mira

Next day we went to Mom’s Friend’s house in Grand Mira North. She and her husband live on the Mira River with a dock ending deep enough for one to dive off of. It was wonderful to swim, even if it was the only swim I got in this trip. Swimming. Dorothy’s twin grandkids, who were there were not at all the shy type. They chatted and followed me to the river, allowing me to take some fun photos posed on the dock, thereby pulling them from under adult feet. They balls of energies and such hams. Somehow I managed to get some seriousness out of them, taking these lovely photos below. Before leaving, I let them get behind the camera. Elizabeth took the group shot of her Mom, brother, Blake and Baby sister, Annabelle. Good Job Elizabeth!

Breton Brewing

Mom and I went into Sydney River to pick up some groceries and since Sobey’s is so close to the newest brewery in Cape Breton, so I coerced Mom to go there, adding another stamp in my passport. Breton Brewing was a year old on my birthday, June 27th. What a funny coincidence. Inside is dark, yet surprisingly stylish and spacious with rows of long tables between a small stage for live music and the bar. I honestly thought that the interior would look more industrial, but it was warm and cosy. Along one wall, you can see the vast wear house where it all happens. There’s even have a line a clothing. Behind the bar is a mega huge chalk board describing only a portion of the beers they have on tap. I ordered a set of samples and went outside to try to convince Mom to come in. She said she was going to sit in the car and read. I had no such luck but a gentleman who had just bought a four pack of assorted tall cans assured me he would be successful, and he was. Mom too, was surprised at how nice and cool it was inside.

The sample tray is $7 and comes with 5 beers. Each sample is a little less than half a pint. Under each glass is a coaster describing the beer it lays under. Unfortunately, so much time has passed since said tasting, I can’t tell you all that I had, but the one I remember most vividly was the Heifenwizen. The girl at the bar describes it as having a hint of vanilla and banana. I didn’t taste these, but tasted a hint of cinnamon, which wasn’t bad as one may think, but rather a nice surprise. I noticed someone beside me and asked him if he had tasted the cinnamon (since he was drinking the same beer), after taking a sip, he agreed with me.

I don’t think Mom was too pleased with my running around collecting as many stamps as I could. She made the comment that perhaps I drink too much. No danger there. I’m not the stereotypical Cape Bretoner, drinking like a fish. But she did suggest a walk in Peter’s Field before heading home, to burn off some of the beer.

Peter’s Field is one of my favourite parks to go to aside from Groves Point on the North Side. It’s full of paths that weave in and out of fields, forest and harbour shoreline. It was once an estate to the McLellans, but originally owned my an X-American, David Mathews, who fled from jail for having attempted to assonate George Washington. Yet another American who discovered the beauties of Cape Breton. Thomas Crawley was the second owner of this estate, embellishing the gardens before it came into the hands of John Stewart McLennan in 1900, a native Cape Bretoner, he took over his fathers coal mining business, becoming a staunch politician, a hobbyist archaeologist studying the ruins of the Fortress of Louisbourg, bought two newspaper companies and was interested in botany.

This trip, I had pre planned a photo shoot here, which is why I brought a costume – my brown linen/cotton skirt, corset, two shirt waists and a petticoat, the later two borrowed from my friend Joy who generously lent these and other pieces to photograph. Also equipped with an Alien Bee studio light, my Paul Buff battery and light stand, I was to continue my “Anachronist” project on location. On our walk, I took photos as I usually do, but kept an eye out for spots that would work for backgrounds.

Gabarus

Another “Anachronist” opportunity came along that week. Each year, Mom and I go to Point Micheaud Beach up St. Peters way. But this year, I wanted to go to Gabarus. It’s a tiny community at the point of extinction yet is populated my mainly fisherman and has a historical value. In the the early to mid 1700’s when the English took over the Fortress of Louisbourg, many American Loyalist signed up to fight against the French. Some American troops landed in Gabarus setting up camp, scouting a way to the fortress on land through bracken and swamp. From Google earth, you can see a minuscule logging road that connects both areas. Apparently the access is through Kennington Cove.

Mom drove as I styled my hair in the car without hairspray, but with many bobby pins, which held for a while. But the wind being as frisky as it was lead to many escapee tendrils. Though in the end it made my hair look very authentic for the period in such a landscape. My poor boots faired just as well. Buttons decided to participate in the escape plan. Luckily I was able to find each and everyone that popped off, sewing them on later. When I got back to Toronto, the staff of Gadabout were so good in helping me find matching buttons for free. The boots were a little too big, but worked well in any case. When posing, I had to be careful my skirt covered the boots from the ankle up. Not for modesty sake, no. The tongue and the sides flapped about when I scurried from camera to sitting position. I really have to get a new battery for my remote timer.

I wish I had more time at Gabarus, but there was a large fog bank that rolled from over the hills, bringing with it a damp chill. One shot I wish I got would have standing in front of the water holding the back of my skirt like the woman in the photograph I found on Pinterest . Yet another would have been me stepping in the water, or standing next to the warf lined with lobster traps or the lighthouse. Alas, I need all day and to either be alone or with a proper assistant. Maybe it’s just as well, what I thought to be an ache from the hard mattress I was sleeping on turned out to be a pulled shoulder muscle from swinging my big ass camera bag over my shoulder. The only consolation for spending 4 hours in out patience on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was having a hot doctor look after me.

Hanging with Family

In the whirl of home activity, there is a the required getting together with family. Having already paid a visit to my Grand Parents in Stewiack on the way home from the valley, I wanted to spend time with the Webber family. It was a tight window but Uncle Roy, Aunt Daphne, my cousin Caelin and her two little girls managed to come over for a BBQ. What a lovely day we had for it! The girls were so sweet and well behaved, helping to put together strawberry shortcakes and bringing their dirty dishes into the kitchen. I’m so sad Caelin is moving back to Thompson.

If there’s one thing I love to be, it’s the cool artsy-fartsy aunt. After supper, we gathered on the slope in the backyard for photos. I used the Alien Bee for the first time this trip. I tried to pose everyone as best as I could, but it really is difficult to get everyone to look in the same direction with chins down, eyes open, stop talking! SMILE!

The kids and I ended the evening with making fun crowns out of plastic flower pots and reading them each a story from books Mom had given them as going away gift.

Peter’s Field Again

My last afternoon was spent in Peter’s Field, in costume with my hair pinned up. I repeated to myself, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I’m just going to do it and have fun.” It’s a well used park but thankfully there weren’t too many people today. Just those walking and chatting. Those who crossed my path were polite enough to wait until the photo was taken which is a nice reprieve to the crowds of clueless Torontonians who don’t know what the hell is going on (or just don’t care) and walk through you photos. There were some who were curious. One gentleman thought I was photographing a wedding.

I wore a different shirtwaist and so glad I did because, phew, was it hot! My suite case when I opened it back in Toronto was almost as bad as a week old gym bag. Nothing a dumping in the bath tub of luke warm water won’t fix.

And here I close on this long drawn our blog that took almost a month to post. I thank Joy again for the loan of her period pieces, they made my photos come alive. I go home at Christmas and hope to have even more opportunities for more on location shoots. Or a chance to head out somewhere with George. It’s always nice to have some one to photograph with and share the adventure.

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.