Winter Project

Winter is the perfect time to take on a little home decorating project.  It gives you something to do while your waiting for the evening light and warm temperatures to return.

This January I decided to take on redecorating a small bedroom in our home.  A room desperately in need of a fresh coat of paint and a new purpose.  The task?  Turning this drab, unused space into a cozy reading oasis.

Seriously in need of help

The idea took shape when I spotted this amazing print from Sweet Sycamore in a Canadian Living magazine.  The idea grew from there.

You can’t not sing the song

A great shade of paint (Antiqued Aqua, Benjamin Moore), a comfy chair, some lighting and a few bookcases later and I love my new room!  It’s a great place to hang out and chill, with plenty of storage for future book purchases.

A cozy corner

 

Lots of space for books

 

Now I have somewhere to display my cloth bound books and tea set!

I’m still searching for the perfect curtains (aren’t they so hard to find?) and I may add a few details over time but overall I’m very happy with how it turned out.  It was a great use of my indoor winter time and now I have a space that is much more useful for me.
A special feature of the room that my husband insisted on are hammock hooks.  You know, in case chairs just aren’t your thing.  I was resistant at first but it was a huge hit at our annual Stoutfest party last weekend and I must admit it’s pretty comfy (don’t tell my husband!).  Also, it’s easy to take down so it doesn’t have to dominate the room all the time.

I’m trying to pretend I don’t like it.

Have you taken on any indoor winter projects to get you through the coldest months?

I’d love to hear about them!

A Few of My Favourite Maritime Instagramers

Those of us who call the Maritimes home know just how beautiful it is here: swallowed up by the chilly Atlantic Ocean, home to the world’s highest tides.  From the deep green forests of NB, to the red sand soils of PEI, it’s all so photogenic.

Instragram is full of pictures of our stunning Maritimes.  One thing I really enjoy about the app is how it encourages you to take note of what’s around you.  To look at the little details, like the way the snow falls in perfect little spheres or the way the evening light filters through the forest trees . There are some Maritime instagramers who are really killing it. They promote our region with their incredible photography and they inspire me to get out and explore the region too.

The following is a list of some of my favourite Maritime Instagramers.  It’s by no means exhaustive.  If you know of a great Maritime Instagramer that I should be following, please pass their name/handle along!

My Favourite Maritime Instagramers:

  1.  Colin Swift (@colinscamera) – In Colin’s bio he says, “It’s beautiful, look around” and that he certainly does.  He sets up regular Insta-meets and his explorations around the Maritimes result in some of the most stunning photos I’ve seen on Instagram, or anywhere for that matter.

 

2.  Melinda Foster (@Melinda.Foster) – Melinda takes stunning nature and wildlife photos of southern NB.  I am continually impressed by the patience that she must possess in order to get some of her shots.  I love her photos because they show the wildness of NB in an up close and personal way that we city dwellers don’t often get to see.

 

3.  Jordan (@fundysnapper) – Jordan takes striking photos around my favourite city on the Bay of Fundy: Saint John.  His streetscapes show off the history and architecture the city is so well known for, in it’s very best light.

Saint John City Market @sjcitymarket

A photo posted by Jordan (@fundysnapper) on

 

4.  Amy Stackhouse (@amystackhouse) – Amy takes photos around Nova Scotia and I really love her attention to detail in her photography.  Her shots are always so interesting and I find myself drawn into them and pausing to study all the exquisite details in each one.

Misty morning

A photo posted by Amy Stackhouse (@amystackhouse) on

 

5.  Jordy Smits (@JORDY_SMITS) – In his bio, Jordy says he is a self taught photographer from The Netherlands currently based on the east coast of Canada.  He does mostly night shots and his photos have a surreal and dream-like quality that I love.  It’s a different take on the Maritime landscapes that are so familiar to us in the day.

 

6.  Morgan Haley (@coastalwanderings) – Morgan takes gorgeous photos from all around eastern Canada.  I love how varied her shots are, from forest trails to dreamy beaches.

 

7.  Robert Hebert (@rbrthebert) – Robert is a self-professed adventurer and seems to take full advantage of the numerous outdoor opportunities available in New Brunswick.

 

8.  Andrew Ryan Munn (@PORTCITYMUNN) – Many of Andrew’s photos feature one of my personal favourite Maritime locales: The Bay of Fundy.  His photos display the raw power of the Bay as well as its calmer, gentler side at sunset.

#me#ocean##great#day#saintjohn#canada

A photo posted by Andrew Ryan munn (@portcitymunn) on

 

9.  Nick Jay (@JAYPROGRAMMER) – Nick is a photographer from PEI and his shots of the Island’s landscapes makes me miss PEI’s breezy and beachy vibe.

 

10.  Bryn Robinson (@BRYNPHD) – I’ve just recently starting following Bryn on Instagram but she’s got a great eye for zeroing in on the most interesting subject matter.

My Goals for 2016

Well, here we are.  2016.  Another year stretched out before us.  Another blank slate ready to be scratched upon with indelible ink.  So far, 2016 is looking pretty good.  I spent New Year’s Eve in Moncton at Casino New Brunswick for a concert featuring two great Canadian bands: I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace.  One thing that’s cool about concerts is that you end up sharing these cool little moments with strangers around you. For a few short moments of time, you share a common goal.  The power of music is that it reveals the connections between us.  So, thank you to the crew we came with as well as those we met along the way, like cool dude in the Bill Fucking Murray t-shirt who held up a lighter during the show (no one does that anymore!).   Or the girl in the hipster glasses and awesome outfit in line at the bar who struck up a conversation with me that continued randomly throughout the evening. These are the kind of unexpected meetings that make a night memorable.

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Our Lady Peace takes the stage
Lots of confetti to ring in the New Year

Seeing as we’ve flipped the page on another year and started with a blank slate, it’s appropriate to think about what we wish to accomplish in the coming year.  Even if we don’t come close to reaching our goals, they give us focus and something to work towards.

Here are some of my personal goals for 2016:

1.  Continue to spread the word about Maritime Love and help others do the same.  I’m currently working on a project that will feature people on the blog who have chosen to make (or continue to make) the Maritimes their home, why they love it here and what they think is needed to make it even better.  More on that project in the coming weeks.

2.  Spend more time outdoors, especially this winter.  The winter season has traditionally been hard for me because I end up feeling cooped up but I know it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you have the proper gear, you can face almost any weather challenge.  So, with my new cold weather gear on order, I’m committing to doing more walking, snowshoe hiking, skating, sledding and skiing in an effort to #makewinterfun.

The first of many walks in the snow


3.  Explore even more of what the region has to offer.  There is still so much I haven’t seen.  A few of the places I plan to visit this year:

  • Mount Carleton – well known as the highest peak in the Maritimes, this would be a great hike to accomplish this year.
  • Ministers Island – this destination has been on my radar since a very cool promotional video on the Charlotte coastal region was released. You reach the island during the summer months by driving over the sea bed at low tide.  Once there, you can explore the estate of Sir William Van Horne, former president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. You have to make sure you drive back over before the tide comes up or you’ll be trapped!  Sounds like a great adventure to me.
  • Cape Chignecto Provincial Park – my husband and I had planned to do this 52km loop hike along the Bay of Fundy coast last year but the timing just didn’t work out.  This would be an ambitious goal for me as I’ve never done a multi-day hike but I would love to accomplish it.
  • Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail – I’ve never been to Cape Breton.  I don’t even know how I can call myself a Maritimer without having seen it, so this year I’m going.  I just can’t decide if it would be better to go in the summer while the weather is warm or wait until the leaves change to brilliant colours.  Any advice on what I should see/do while I’m there would be greatly appreciated!

Those are my main goals for 2016!  Do you have goals you’d like to reach this year?  Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Year in Review: My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2015

It’s New Year’s Eve Eve and everyone seems to be reflecting on the year (almost) passed. I know you’ll probably already have read a bazillion year in review posts and articles but you haven’t read one from me yet, so hold on to your hats.  Actually, it’s not going to be that exciting, but I’m going to write it anyway.

People love reading year in review stuff.  We eat that shit up.  It’s partly because we’re nosy as a species and want to know what everyone else has been up to and partly because we get real reflective about this time of year and we like to look back at all the shit we did/read/talked about over the past 365 days.

This year, I started a blog.  Or, to be more precise, I started regularly writing in my already-created blog.  It’s been a wild ride.  I’ve had over 12,000 views and almost 10,000 visitors from all over the world.  I even had a post go viral-ish (by Maritime standards) with 3,500 views in a single day.  Even for well established blogs, that’s crazy stats.  I would like to thank everyone who read, liked, shared and commented on any of my posts in 2015.  Here’s to many more in 2016!

I’m recapping my blogging year with my top 5 posts of 2015.  Thanks for reading, see you in the new year!

My Top Posts of 2015:

5. Maritime Growing Season: The Wild Blueberry Harvest (August)

A tale of family love and the blueberry chain gang.

https://maritimelove.com/2015/08/30/maritime-growing-season-the-wild-blueberry-harvest/

4.  Summer in Saint John (August)

What I Did Last Summer.  Literally.

https://maritimelove.com/2015/08/13/summer-in-saint-john/

3.  Stepping Up For My City (October)

My call-to-action in support of community improvement.

https://maritimelove.com/2015/10/04/stepping-up-for-my-city/

2.  Ode to the Rural Schoolhouse (April)

A love letter to a place of my rural Nova Scotian youth.

https://maritimelove.com/2015/04/05/ode-to-the-rural-schoolhouse/

 1.  Why Your Opinion of Saint John Needs Updating (April)

A bad-ass listicle for a bad-ass town.

https://maritimelove.com/2015/04/12/why-your-opinion-of-saint-john-needs-updating/

 

My ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Story: A Do-Over

I have a confession to make: Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year.  I like it better than Christmas Day.  To me, the true magic of the season lies in the anticipation and lead up to the big day rather than the big day itself.  I love the peaceful stillness that fills the house after everyone has gone to bed on Christmas Eve.  But there’s also an undercurrent of excitement, a quiet hum of anticipation for the coming morning.  It’s unlike any other night of the year.  And in my house growing up, my mother would often cook our turkey on Christmas Eve, so that when you went to bed, the house smelled oh, so wonderful.  To this day, the smell of a cooked turkey brings back memories of sleepless nights impatiently waiting to see what Santa brought for me.

When I was a kid, in that little two room schoolhouse I told you about, we had Christmas concerts, just like any other school.  One year I got this crazy idea to memorize the entire ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem and recite it at the school Christmas concert.  I don’t know what possessed my little 8 year old self to tackle such a challenge, but tackle it I did.  I spent weeks learning the poem, going over and over it in my mind.  The idea was to recite the poem for a couple younger school kids, as if I was telling them the story by the fireplace.  My teacher would prompt me if I forgot my line.

When the day of the concert came, I was a nervous wreck.  My stomach was in knots as the time ticked closer to my performance.  When my big moment arrived, I froze.  I couldn’t do it.  I had a major case of stage fright.  My teacher and the crowd tried to cajole me into performing, but I was having none of it.  No way, no how.  I was not going on that stage.

My parents were none too pleased with me and I was disappointed in myself.  I think I realized that my rather tenuous short-term memory was not going to survive all those faces staring expectantly at me.  But I also regretted not at least attempting it, which goes to show the old adage is true: you only regret the things you didn’t do in life.

We don’t often get do-overs in this life, so I’m going to take mine now.  So here I am, reciting (from memory) the now infamous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, for my 8 year old self.  Better late than never!

I wish you all joy and happiness in the coming week!  Merry Christmas!

 

Smith Family Traditions: Christmas Mix

Holiday traditions.

We’ve all got them and the holidays just don’t seem like the holidays without them.  It might be the baking of a delicious treat, or the ritual of decorating the Christmas tree or a multitude of other sweet family customs.  They become so deeply embedded in our enjoyment of the season that even as we become adults, we often can’t let go of those traditions that we cherished as children.

For as long as I have known him, my husband has been making Christmas Mix as a holiday treat to give to family and friends (also known as bits and bites or nuts and bolts or a multitude of other names).  He’s been doing this for about 15 years and since we’ve been together, for the better part of a decade now, I’ve helped him.

Ours is a super-secret family recipe that can’t be revealed, but you can find a lot of very close recipes posted across the internet, such as those found here and here.

It started out as just about a dozen mason jars being given out but it’s ballooned over the years to this year’s all-time record of 40 jars of Christmas Mix!  It’s quite an operation.  If you don’t receive a jar from us, we’re very sorry, but we had to draw the line somewhere!

First, we collect all the supplies we need and the mason jars.

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All the supplies are collected and ready to be baked!

Then comes the really time consuming part, baking the mix.  The mix cooks for 2 hours, stirred every 20 minutes.  You can’t just throw it in the oven and walk away.

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The Mix is getting mixed
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One batch almost ready for the oven
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Adding the secret sauce…

We’re making 5 large batches this year, an all-time record.  That’s a lot of Christmas mix!  This year we decided to do all the baking in a single day, so we’re currently about halfway through a 10 hour Christmas Mix baking day.  It’s a marathon event that requires lots of Netflix, Winter Warmer (wine for me) and patience.

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About half way through the baking process.  It smells amazing in here!
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Of course, Joel has to sample the goods.

After the mix has cooled we put them into mason jars and pretty them up a bit.

The finished product ready to be delivered!

The really fun part is delivering the mix.  Joel and I put on Santa hats and hit the road (usually some snowy evening) to hand out our delicious treats. We even mail some out to friends who live outside Saint John.

It’s a lot of work but it’s totally worth it to spread a little Christmas cheer among our friends and family.  It’s a tradition.  And holiday traditions are comforting and warm, like a sweet memory.  For some, it’s just not Christmas until they see that mix.

I’ll leave you with some music to complete your own holiday traditions.  I was fortunate enough to see this New Brunswick native perform at Imperial Theatre this week and it was fabulous!  If you get the chance to see him live, I highly recommend it!  Here’s a couple of my favourites from his Christmas album:

 

What are some of your family holiday traditions?

 

Only in the Maritimes

Recently, Covered Bridge Potato Chips released a flavour, or rather a combination of flavours, called Storm Chips, capitalizing on the now ubiquitous Maritime term to describe storm-related snacks.  If you haven’t heard the story of how Storm Chips came to be a Maritime phenomenon then carry on, dear reader.  Last winter, Stephanie Domet, a Halifax CBC reporter spoke on air about her penchant for chips and dip every time it stormed (which, as you remember, was often last January).  When she went to the store to get her snacks, she snapped a photo of them with the hashtag #stormchips and the phenomenon was born.  Now, you can actually buy a flavour of chips bearing that very name.  I can already hear the crinkle of chip bags opening all over the Maritimes this winter as thousands of Maritimers cuddle up under a blanket on the couch as a storm rages outside.  Just, hopefully, not too many times.  For our physical health as well as our sanity.

Storm Chips
Photo, coveredbridgechips.com

The reappearance of Storm Chips got me thinking: what else can be considered uniquely Maritimes?

There are a few things that the Maritimes share with neighbouring regions, such as wild blueberries and maple syrup.  There’s also lobster and other seafood of course, lobster rolls being a favourite served in restaurants across the region.

Now, that’s a lobster roll!

Dulse (dried seaweed) is another treat (term used liberally!) from the sea commonly found in the Maritimes.  That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone and while lots of Maritimers love dulse, lots hate it, too.

dulse
Photo, public domain

Donair is another well-known Maritime food specialty.  The donair reportedly began in Halifax in the 1970’s, but who can claim credit for creating it and being the first to serve it is up for debate.  For those who don’t know, donair consists of sliced, seasoned meat served on bread with tomato, onion and sweet donair sauce.

mrdonair
Photo, MrDonair.ca

As for non-food related Maritime specialties, it might very well be the only place in the world that you can find inner-city, dual lighthouses at sunset, like these found in Uptown, Saint John:

Dual lighthouses at sunset, only in the Maritimes

Lighthouses in general, while certainly not unique to the Maritimes, are so synonymous with the region that the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouse in the world.

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A foggy day at Peggy’s Cove

You can also find brutal winters here, that range from +15 one day and -25 the next.  And don’t even get us started on the snow…we’re still traumatized from last winter, which saw record snowfalls in several Maritime cities.

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We find ways to deal with the snow

Despite all the unique things the Maritimes offer that we love, there is not one single thing that can define us.  It’s all part of a way of life that is shaped by our environment and our histories.  It’s woven into our DNA, from the first breath of salty sea air that fills our lungs.  We are a part of it, as it is a part of us.

Is there anything I missed that is uniquely Maritimes?

 

 

We Remember

Today, we remember.  We remember sacrifices made and lives lost.  We celebrate courage and bravery.  We practice gratitude for our remarkably free lives.

We also remember those innocent lives lost – the victims of war.  Those legions of men, women and children not in uniform.  We remember those who toiled in support of the war effort, and those who waited at home for loved ones with trembling hands and hearts.

We remember those who fought on the front lines and those who fought in the shadows.

And those who fight still.

The poppy is our symbol of remembrance – our tremulous link to a shocking past. Pinned on our breast, we wear it with pride and with trepidation.  We gather once a year to honour all those brave souls who risked it all, but also to prevent a history that repeats itself.  As if by gathering at a cenotaph each year, we can ward off the demons of war, by standing together as one, a united front of peaceful intentions.

So, for me, Remembrance Day is not only a remembering of all those that fought, but a remembering of all that we wish to gain.  And that red poppy we so proudly wear? It’s a symbol of hope as much as loss: of what we could be, of what is possible, of what is necessary.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scare heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

John McCrae

A brief history of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance: Inspired by the red poppies that stubbornly grew over the war torn fields of Flanders, Belguim, Canadian field surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel John Alexander McCrae wrote his famous poem 100 years ago.  In 1918 an American woman, Moina Belle Michael, read the poem and was so moved by it’s message of keeping the faith that she came up with the idea of wearing a red poppy as a way of remembering all those who died.  But it was a French woman by the name of Madame Anna E. Guerin who took the symbol of the poppy worldwide.  Today, millions of poppies are worn in Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and in 120 other countries worldwide.

I love this response to In Flanders Fields that I found while doing research, written by Moina Belle Michael:

We shall keep the faith  

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.


We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.


And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields we fought.

Canada Votes 2015: The Most Important Thing You’ll Do Today

It’s finally here: Election Day 2015.  The moment that everyone has been waiting for for 78 long days.  And I, for one, am very happy to see the end of the longest election race in this country’s history.  I bet the federal party leaders are happy too.  I’m sure that if they had had to hold one more baby or take one more selfie, there was going to be a major incident.

I’m ready to vote.  I’ve got mine and my husband’s voter cards in my handbag so that we can swing by the polling station right after work.  I know who I’m voting for and have for quite some time, making the length of this election particularly tedious for me.

I hope everyone is prepared to vote.  It’s the most important thing you’ll do today.  And frankly, it’s a Monday, so it’s probably the most productive thing you’ll do today as well. The huge turnout numbers from the advance polls are promising for a large voter turnout.  I’m hoping that more people than ever are engaged in the political process and are excited to have their say.  In the 2011 election, only 61% of eligible Canadians voted. We can do better than that, Canada. There is really no excuse for not voting, unless you are in a coma or something.  Elections Canada does their very best to make it possible for people to vote.  If you are still not sure how and where to vote, please visit their website.

This election is by no means a forgone conclusion.  This means that your vote really will matter.  And if you are still not sure who to vote for, my advice is to look at the vision each party leader has for this country and see which one most closely matches your own.  This does require that you take some time and think about what is most important to you and what you wish for the future of this country.  If you haven’t done this yet, go ahead, take a few minutes before casting your vote.  It could make a difference in your decision.

On the East Coast, we have the privilege of having the first say in this election.  And this time around, people on the west side of the country will be able to see how we have voted before casting their own.  This could be a real game-changer.  Or perhaps they’ll just ignore us and do their own thing.  I can’t wait to find out.

Regardless of what happens and who is elected, the most important thing is that you have had your say.  That you have contributed to the political future of this country.  It really is the most important thing you’ll do today.

I’ll leave you with Rick Mercer’s brilliant rant on the election and why it’s so important to vote.  Remember: “This is not their election, it is ours”.  Happy voting, Canada!

As Good As It Gets

No, this post is not about a Jack Nicholson movie.

It’s about appreciating and enjoying the beautiful simplicity of life, so perfectly described in the above song by Colin Hay.  I recently rediscovered this song and am remembering just how much I love it and its message.  I encourage you to listen while you read.  I listened while I wrote.

“My, my, my, it’s a beautiful world” he sings, “I like swimming in the sea”.  Throughout the song he croons about all the simple things that make the world beautiful to him: making his own tea, driving in his car, sleeping with Marie and of course, swimming in the sea.

It’s a lesson I learned growing up in rural Nova Scotia.  That ambition is great and all, but one should never lose sight of the things that are really important in life: time spent with family and friends.  My parents, my family, they appreciate the simple life.  We never had much money, but we had all the things that were important and we had them in abundance.  Along the way I have also learned how important it is to connect with the environment we live in, to feel part of something bigger than yourself – and thus Maritime Love was born.

“Still this emptiness persists.  Perhaps this is as good as it gets”

Most of the time I think we make life a lot more complicated than it has to be.  We hurry through life, trying to accomplish as much as possible along the way but never really experiencing any of it.  There is so much joy to be had in the little things in life, if only we took the time to fully appreciate and be grateful for them.  I tend to think that this is where the true meaning of life is secretly tucked away: in the quiet moments we share with loved ones and the world around us.  When we slow down long enough to really taste the tea, to feel the wind in our hair and the water buoy us up.  Some might say that this is the space where God lives.  I don’t know about that, but I know that it’s a place where I aspire to live.

“I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets.  Yeah, this is as good as it gets”

It sure is.

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