A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Fall Chop Chop Week in Saint John

A foodie’s dream – it’s Chop Chop Week in Uptown, Saint John!  All this week, our fabulous chefs offer up special plates, 2-course lunches and 3-course dinners for a special price.  And the best part is that $1 from every dish sold goes to Lunch Connection, providing hot lunches for kids.  It’s a win-win.  You get to eat great food and the kids get a hot lunch.  And remember that thing I wrote about helping support your city, Saint John?  This is one really simple way to do just that.  You get to show appreciation for our fabulous chefs who take such great care to make wonderful, beautiful food for us, support local businesses and thus the local economy and you get to help feed kids in the area.  So really it’s a win-win-win.

We’re well into Chop Chop week, with only a few more days left to partake.  And by all accounts, it’s been a roaring success.  Joel went to En on Tuesday with some coworkers and told me the place was bumping.  Last night we went to dinner at East Coast Bistro and the place was packed.  We had a fantastic meal and despite how busy it was, the service was great and we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes for any course. Their kitchen is obviously a well oiled machine.

Since I can’t eat wheat, my choices are somewhat limited but I would still like to make it out for one more Chop Chop meal this weekend and I have found that our Saint John chefs are incredibly accommodating with food allergies and intolerances.  I thank you for that, it means a lot to this gluten free foodie!

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Chop Chop main course, En
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Chop Chop dinner at ECB!
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Black & white salad for me, sweet potato soup for Joel
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Pesto haddock gratin for my main, apple-cranberry-rye stuffed pork tenderloin for Joel
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Butter ice cream with sponge toffee crunch for me, Maritime gingerbread for Joel – so yummy!

So if you haven’t been out for a Chop Chop meal yet, what are you waiting for?!  Get on the horn and make a reservation for this weekend!  Yes, all our restaurants will still be here next week but these special menus and the chance to help local schoolkids won’t be.  Happy eating, SJ!

Saturday Morning Adventures: Bald Mountain Adventure Trail

The morning broke clear and cool, with rain on the way this afternoon.  So up and out the door we hurried to find some adventure and do some leaf chasing.  Our plan was to drive out to Clarendon and hike the Bald Mountain Adventure Trail.

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It was a beautiful drive, as the fall colours were reaching their peak this weekend.

The hike itself is a short 2.2km loop that ranges from easy to difficult.  The lead-in trail from the parking area and the upper part of the loop is easy to moderate.  The lower trail is difficult, with quite a few steep areas and boulders to climb over.  It’s well worth the effort however, as you come to a huge rock face that is apparantly very popular with local rock climbers.  No one there today though, just us.

Abandoned bird’s nest along the trail
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That’s a big rock

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A little farther up the loop you come to another rock face, this one with a large chunk of rock cut out of it and a nice little seat to have a break and check out the view.  This one is aptly called Nature’s Boardroom.

Joel checking out the view from Nature’s Boardroom

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From there it’s just a short hike to the summit where you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding area, made especially beautiful with the colourful fall foliage.  The summit is covered with snowy lichen mixed with raspberry-coloured blueberry plants.

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View from the summit

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Lichen and blueberry plants

The hike back down and drive home was equally pretty, with several photo op stops along the way.

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A golden wonderland

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Just as we were getting back in the city, the rain was starting to fall.  I’m so glad we got up early and took advantage of the nice weather while we had it.  As I’m writing this, we’re getting a thunderstorm and there are hail stones covering my back deck.  That’s the thing about weather in the Maritimes, you never know what you’re going to get, from minute-to-minute.  Happy Saturday!

Stepping Up For My City

“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.

That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.

This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:

“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance.  Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it.  If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.

Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city.  I don’t give a shit about all that.  To me, it’s just semantics.  What truly matters is: how do we make our community better?  How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business.  I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.

I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it!  I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me, woman!”

And I think the answer to the question is no.  No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important!  But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I could do more, I know that I could.  But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.

There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more.  These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city.  I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed.  And if you don’t, then why not be that person?  Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work?  We would see a very different Maritimes.

So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city.  I hope you will too.  And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.

Anniversary Celebration in Uptown, Saint John

Two years ago tomorrow, my husband and I used Chipman Hill Suites as a home base for our wedding. The historic residence of former Mayor Walter W. White, 71 Sydney St. had everything that we needed to create beautiful photo memories of the day and was a comfortable place for out-of-town guests to stay.

On Saturday night, we ventured back Uptown to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, this time at 1 Chipman Hill.  After having been in several of the Chipman Hill Suites buildings, I can tell you that they are exquisitely beautiful with all of the incredible opulence of their time of construction (1854-1857 for the buildings on Chipman Hill). They boast crown moulding, colourful stained glass windows and ornate wood carvings.

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1 Chipman Hill exterior
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Our gorgeous room at 1 Chipman Hill
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Pretty stained glass windows
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Lobby and staircase at 1 Chipman Hill

The furnishings have all been chosen to complement the style of the homes.  I loved the carved wood armoire in our room and admired the lovely chess set and light fixtures in the common areas.

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Ornate armoire
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Loved this little detail in our room
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Chess anyone?
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Lobby light fixture

Susan Fullerton and her team go above and beyond to ensure their guest’s comfort.  I remember having many email conversations with Susan throughout the wedding process on what we needed and how best Chipman Hill Suites could provide it.  She was so helpful.  I guess this is one reason why they are ranked #1 on TripAdvisor among B&B and Inn’s in Saint John.  They are definitely worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Saint John or if you just want a night away from home.

Even though I had a cold and was feeling a little under the weather, I didn’t want to miss out on having dinner Uptown.  We decided on Italian by Night: it was a romantic night after all, so we felt Italian was called for.  All I can say is WOW.  We had an incredible meal and I was so impressed that the chefs had gluten free options so that I could enjoy every course fully.  And I thought the meal was a great value: we split the bruschetta, each had a main as well as dessert (those GF brownies – chocolate heaven!) and a couple glasses of wine for around $80.  For such a fantastic meal – that’s a bargain.

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Bruschetta. ‘Nugh said.
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GF penne for me and and pizza for Joel
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GF brownies for me and tiramisu for Joel

After dinner, we ended our evening out at Bourbon Quarter, where we had a nightcap of Pollen Angels mead for me and a Hammond River brew for Joel while we enjoyed the music from their weekly open mike night.  Then we strolled back to 1 Chipman Hill, having thoroughly enjoyed our romantic evening Uptown.  Saint Romantic, indeed.

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Some fine NB-made nightcaps

Third Shift: A Night of Art and Magic

I wasn’t planning on writing another post about Saint John this week.  But last night, something pretty special happened and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What happened was that the folks at Third Space Gallery put on Third Shift, Saint John’s first (and hopefully not last) interactive outdoor art show.

Comprised of 17 exhibits from 29 artists and spread over the Trinity Royal District of Uptown, this event was all kinds of magic.  When my husband and I arrived Uptown around 8pm, the event was in full swing and the streets were pulsing with people and excitement.  The Saint John fog was thick and lent a air of mystery to the whole affair. There was a large crowd enjoying Acre Architects’ re-imagining of public spaces, The Park, which transformed Grannan Lane into a sparkling urban oasis, where only a street had existed before.

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Another favourite of mine was I Love You More With Every Remembering by Amy Ash, which asked participants to write a love letter to a place they had left behind and pin them on strings located around Canterbury Car Park.  The exhibit made excellent use of this property, currently undergoing construction.  Picaroons’ was giving away free samples of their brews, soon to be sold in this very location.  The entire property was aglow in red light and looked spectacular, even in it’s unfinished state.

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Crossing the street, we played with the ingenious Light Graffiti exhibit by Kate MacDonald and checked out Photomatic: Travelling Tintype Studio by Karen Stentaford and Christie Lawrence.  Venturing a little further up the street brought us to another magical exhibit, Field Recording by Jud Crandall, where bubbles were floating across Canterbury as an audio recording from a winter snowstorm earlier this year played.  The effect was dreamlike.

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And there were so many more wonderful exhibits.  I don’t think we even saw them all. The event was an unequivocal success.  It gave the people of Saint John, myself included, a chance to experience art in a totally new, inclusive way.  It caused you fall even more in love with your city while at the same time seeing it in a whole new light. And I guess that’s the point of art, to push our consciousness to expand and develop. And Third Shift certainly succeeded.

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I walked by Grannan Lane today and the grass is gone, but the magical feeling remains. And I think few who were Uptown last night will soon forget the experience.  Thank you to all the organizers, artists, contributors and volunteers who made the event a night of art and magic to remember.

Summer in Saint John

I can feel it in the air.

Summer is starting to wind down.  You can feel the slightest bite in the early morning air, the days are getting shorter and the occasional brown leaf flutters across the driveway after a late summer storm.  Soon it will be all sweaters and boots and pumpkin spiced lattes.  But for now it’s still summer in the city.  That most coveted time when a sweater is not (always) required to have drinks on the boardwalk.  That time when the Bay of Fundy fog is sometimes even a welcome, cooling blanket.  And it seems like we’re in for a late summer heat wave so it’s a perfect weekend to head to the boardwalk or to one of the many beaches around Saint John.

From Canada Day celebrations to Buskers on the Bay, to late night drinks with friends, summer is a wonderful time in Uptown Saint John.  I feel like Uptown really is the heart of soul of this city.  It’s where we gather for celebrations small and large and it’s the place visitors gravitate towards, and for good reason.  From the lively boardwalk patios to the somber Loyalist Burial Grounds; from the charming brownstone homes on Germain Street to the stunning view down Princess Street when the sun is dipping low. You could almost imagine that those lazy days of summer will go on forever.  Until they’re over.  The wind will shift ever so slightly and suddenly it will be fall.  And that’s not so bad, really.  We’ve got a lovely September and October to look forward to.  And I do love to wear tights.  But first a few more beautiful summer weekends in Saint John, please.

Here are some shots from my summer in Saint John:


  

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