Desperate times, desperate measures

First my siblings-in-law come to visit.  Then on the day they leave I fly back with them to Ottawa for Chel’s wedding.  So if I miss a post between 25 May and 13 June I’m sorry.  It’s life.  It gets in the way.

Back on the Rock!

O Frabjous Day!

Today Gren and I head to St. John’s to live with the Pie.  Gren and the Pie can’t wait to meet, but it will be a looooooong journey there.

Very tiring.

Chicken in Toronto

In the last week of August I went to Toronto for the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit, which was incredibly exciting for me, to be able to rub elbows with all the people I hope to know personally once I’ve finished my doctorate.

I was also able to meet the Pie in town on two nights and catch some Blue Jays games.  This is Jose Bautista.  He’s not much to look at but he got a home run on one night.

I stayed with my best friend Chel and her lovely new husband Invis right downtown.  Talk about making the most out of a small space!  Here is their tiny kitchen, with Invis filling up most of it.  Chel had the clever idea of using one of her favourite coat hangers (because she couldn’t find another place for it) to hang up her pots and pans. I think it’s genius.

One night  they were kind enough to allow me to cook them dinner, and we decided, since it was hot and humid in the Big Smoke, to keep things on the simple side.  We settled on a chicken rosé sauce on pasta followed by vanilla ice cream with strawberry and red currant fruit sauce.

We decided to feature basil in the recipe because Chel has been keeping a lush little plant going for some time.Chop up a few boneless skinless chicken breasts, as well as a small onion, some mushrooms, and a red pepper or two.  And don’t forget lots and lots of fresh basil.

Chuck the onion in a pot with some olive oil and sauté until translucent.Season your chicken breasts and plop them in as well.  Stir it around until the chicken is cooked through.Add in your basil and let that aroma fill the space as it heats up.Then drop in your vegetables and let them cook for a wee spell.Now you can pour in a jar of your favourite pasta or other tomato sauce.Add in some whipping cream as well, about 250mL.  Let the whole thing simmer.If you find it’s too watery you can add in a can of tomato paste to thicken it up.Serve over your pasta of choice and you’ve got a lovely meal.Now while that is simmering you can whip up your dessert fruit sauce.  We found some lovely fresh red currants in the grocery store so I added them, some cut up strawberries, a bit of sugar, and some juice to the pot and set it to boil.Once you have simmered it for a while, remove it from the heat and let it cool while you eat your dinner.  Pour it over ice cream and you’re all set.

Bell Island Take Two

What’s weird about this post is that it’s about Newfoundland, and by the time it’s posted I won’t be in Newfoundland any more.  So that’s weird.

When the in-laws were in town, the Pie and I decided to take them to Bell Island.  It was a day that promised rain, but we figured, what the hell, and we went anyway.

Boy are we glad we did.  There was so much to see that we hadn’t seen before on our trip with Cait and iPM, and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.  You can see the full set of photos here, but I’ll give you the highlights.

During our crossing we got to watch some minke whales frolicking between two small boats.  I didn’t take pictures because they were too far away for a good shot, and it’s hard to predict when their tails are going to come up.  The whole time we were watching the whales some old guy next to me kept pointing them out to me every time one came up for air, nudging me and saying, “Did you see that?  Did you see it?  That’s a whale.”  Like I didn’t know what I was looking at.  Eventually I moved around and hid behind my father-in-law, who was clinging like death to one of the poles away from the railing.  And my mother-in-law wouldn’t let me hang over the railing, either.  I know where the Pie gets his fear of the ocean from.  Too bad I made him live on an island in one of the harshest oceans in the world.But at least I got them all to smile.  Sort of.  To be fair, it was raining in their faces so that’s why they’re all squinting.After a short interlude, Bell Island emerged from the fog.Our first stop was the Bell Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1939.  This afternoon the lighthouse keeper was actually there, and he let us go up the ladder!It being one of the shorter lighthouses I’ve seen, the view from up there was a slightly more rain-spattered one than the view on the ground, but the Pie took this nice one of the lamp itself for me.

The lighthouse keeper was kind enough to explain to me something that had been puzzling me for some time.  I’d seen brown paper bags, filled with air or paper to fluff them out, hanging over the thresholds of various businesses when they left their doors open.  There was a similar one at the lighthouse, and the lighthouse keeper told me that it’s called a “Newfie Screendoor.”  The paper bag mimics the size and shape of a wasps’ nest, and therefore discourages other wasps, as well as bees and flies, from coming into the building.  He said it’s about 80% effective, which is about what you’ll get from a real screen door.  Pretty clever!

Then of course I went and draped myself over the edge of the cliff to take pictures of the rock formations (I was actually about two metres back from the edge but not according to my family).  The entire in-law family was not impressed.Mrs. Nice, a photographer herself, could understand my desire for the perfect shot, but she still wouldn’t come any closer than ten metres from the edge.They were all only content once I was satisfied and stooped to taking pictures of wildflowers that were on safer territory.Then we hit up Lance Cove Beach, which was where, last time, Cait and her shiny red boots saved me from an exuberant mallard.The gentlemen skipped rocks while the ladies took pictures of rocks.And boats.And wharves.We found some fossils.And a butterfly.And a SHIPWRECK!Not bad for a day at the beach.

Then we headed off to see one of the abandoned iron ore mines.  The reason rocks are red in Newfoundland is because they’re rusty with iron.The rust tends to get into other things as well.Anyway, at the end of a long rusty trail there was a weird, rusty shed.And behind the shed (and down a slippery, precipitous climb) there was a rock.That tiny yellow sign is actually about a metre by a metre and it reads KEEP OFF: FALLING ROCKS.

The sun took an opportunity to disappear for a while behind the clouds as we slipped and slithered our way to the beach.  It took about ten minutes to get down there.  When the terrain looks like this, however, you can’t really blame us for exercising caution.  Mrs. Nice remained at the top and waited for our impending deaths, but Papa John gamely followed us down.Why attempt such a harrowing climb, you ask?  Well, because of this.That, my friends, is an abandoned mineshaft.  HOW COOL IS THAT?

Still, once we were down there, the looming cliffs and their attendant minor landslides put a little bit of a damper on our high spirits.  There’s no sense of scale in this shot.  But the closest piece of fallen stone is about the size of my leg.  You can see from the above shot how far down it really is.And here’s the mineshaft.We’re not stupid: we didn’t go in.  The whole thing was raised about 2.5m off the ground and the way up was slippery and showed signs of recent landslides.  Plus who knows how stable those supports are?

Here’s a picture of me looking uneasy in front of it.  Or at least as close as we felt comfortable to getting to it.Then we began the climb back up.

Not that way.  There was a better path we hadn’t seen before.

Then we ended our tour watching the plants dance in the breeze.  It was worth the climb!

My Daily Trek: FRO

At the risk of looking like a tourist, I braved the afternoon throng downtown and walked with my camera held out proudly to record my trek from work to my house.  Fortunately for me, passing motorists mistook me for a tourist, and thus did not actively attempt to run me down on my way home.  So that was a plus.

In case, you didn’t pick up that I work in the lawyer district of St. John’s, there’s this mural that might help you figure that out.

The way home is going to take us down Water toward George Street.First we pass You You Shoes, where I covet pretty much everything in the place.  But I’m not the heel-wearing type, really, so I haven’t bought a thing yet.And then Auntie Crae’s, the love of my life store.  If you can’t get it at Belbin’s you can probably find it here.  Plus they make wicked macaroons.

Up to the famous George Street.

And then up the less famous stairs to Duckworth.Some people favour pretty flower boxes in front of the jelly bean houses.

Others prefer just to leave the weeds as they are.  Both work.

At least the houses are as cheerful as posies.Coming up the other side of the Rooms.Halfway up Long’s Hill.A little past that, is a long flight of stairs.After you climb that there’s a wee flight that leads nowhere.  You climb those too.The police station conveniently has a Tim Horton’s in its parking lot.  And before you tell me that it’s not fair to make doughnut policeman jokes, Papa John is a policeman and he thought it was funny.There’s another police station behind that police station.Passing by the Rooms, you can see the Basilica, which for over a century has dominated the St. John’s skyline.  That is, until 2005, when the horrid monstrosity that is the museum was built.I don’t know what this building is but I love it.It’s next to Sobeys, a frequent stop on my way home.  Sobeys is also conveniently next to the Liquor Store.

Past Sobeys is MacPherson Elementary, which is a nice looking building.And down there, past the new housing development, is an old orphanage.  In the basement of that orphanage is the head office of MCP, the Newfoundland Medical Care Plan.

Rabbitown, which is one of the older neighbourhoods in the city.

Belvedere Cemetery.From here you can see the whole city, even MUN.And there’s the Confederation Building over that way.I have been known to pick wildflowers from this heap.Mind the piece of rebar where there should be a sidewalk.The ReMax Centre, in addition to hosting the St. John’s Curling Club, is also host to a variety of flea markets and such.I love this house and its garden.The path sure looks long and daunting by the end of the day.But once you top it, you’re finally home!

Ali Does It In Ottawa

Today’s the day.

I’ve had my life reduced to the contents of five garbage bags and a set of hockey equipment and it’s time to begin some research.

So I’m heading back to Ottawa for the next nine months to work with a hockey team there for my doctoral dissertation.  The Pie is coming with me for a brief vacation with his family and my brother’s wedding but then he has to head back to The Rock in September — he has his own school to do, after all.

I’ve got a goodly set of posts-in-waiting for your entertainment while I try to put my new life (living back with my parents, eek!) in order.

It’s going to be hard to get used to my parents’ kitchen again, which, although lovely, is dark and has unfortunate-coloured counters.  I may have to improvise.

I’m going to try to keep the regular posting schedule up, but with research and everything it’s all up in the air.  Until then, stay tuned!

My Daily Trek: TO

This isn’t a DIY post, but it’s something I do every second day and I’m going to miss it when I’m back in Ottawa.  It’s my walk to and from the law firm where I work as a librarian, and it’s quite a pleasant little journey.  This is my journey TO work (note that I didn’t stop walking to take these pictures, so they are a little fuzzy sometimes).

I leave the house, check for garbage lodged in the hedge.  If there’s litter, I make a mental note to pick it up on my way home and continue. If not, well, then that’s one less thing I need to do.

Head down the path to Pinebud, where my landlord lives.

In June, these three laburnum trees are solid yellow.  You can’t see a single green leaf.

Down Pinebud, past Mr. M’s house.  We have a “Good morning” relationship.  Also past the house that owns FOUR identical Porsches.

This is the first of many intersections where I am nearly killed on a daily basis.

Past the crappy little house with the shiny BMW in front.  The guy is definitely compensating for something.  This is also the part of the street that becomes entirely flooded when it rains.  Always fun for the passing motorist.

There’s the Remax Centre, where they do all kinds of fun expos.

The curve where I need to duck under protruding vegetation, and where I ALWAYS get splashed when it rains.

The beginning of the uphill climb.

Another intersection where I am nearly killed.

This desk is free to a good home.  There was also a white Dodge Stratus of indeterminate age that went for $600.  I can’t say I was tempted.

Back in the shade again.   I have to cross the street again, but despite the fact that this is a school zone, it’s tricky.  There are blind corners on either side.

One of the schools in question.

The Molson brewery.  Sometimes the whole city smells like fermenting beer.

More uphill climbing.  I try to avoid stepping on snails at this point, but I’m always distracted by the pretty houses, especially the ones that are attached but painted different colours.  CRUNCH.

The utilitarian high school.

O’Hehir Arena, where I have never skated.

Preparing to go downhill again.  Jesuit private school to the left.  The Rooms in front.

Some pretty flowers.

I always wonder if this part of the fence is supposed to sag, or if it was accidental.

More of the Jesuit school.

More of The Rooms.  You should go see the Burtynski exhibit that’s on now.  It’s quite spectacular.

First sight of Signal Hill and another deadly intersection.

Garrison Hill.  My nemesis.

I love these houses.

The rather daunting intersection at Queen’s and Church.  Are you scared?

First sight of my office building.  It’s the black one with the red dot.

Anglican Cathedral.

Courthouse.  Yet another intersection.  This one is one of the worst, in terms of people who try to kill me.

The houses that nobody believes are really on Duckworth.  I’ve been in the one on the right.

The tilty street full of abandoned buildings.

McMurdo’s Lane.  The Duke of Duckworth is where they film the bar scenes in CBC’s Republic of Doyle.

Last block.  That guy in front is the panhandler who practically lives in McMurdo’s Lane.  We also have a “Good morning” relationship.

Walking across the courtyard to the building.

Going up … wayyy up.

Through the library doors.

To start my day.My walk home is a little more interesting, and will be up Monday.  Have a great weekend!

Tourist at Home: Cape Spear

The sun was still shining when we got back from Bell Island so we decided to head south and check out Cape Spear.

This is the site of the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland (only the second one built on the Rock), and this wee point of land is actually the eastern-most geographical point in North America.  We like to go to extremes here, obviously.

This is benchmark No. 1 on the Geodetic Survey. How cool is that?

You can literally stand on the edge of the world here, and the view is incredible.The Pie doesn’t like me standing so close to the edge of the world, however, so he turned his back on the whole thing and checked out the old lighthouse.The old lighthouse has been restored to its 1839 appearance, and they’ve got it set up inside just like someone would have it if they lived there.  Rumour has it that when they were doing the restoration, contractors discovered that the rooms were plastered six inches deep in wallpaper.  Not having much else to do so far from civilization, lighthouse-keepers’ wives would simply redecorate.  Often.

The light itself wasn’t a brand spanking new addition when the lighthouse was constructed between 1832 and 1836.  It had been shipped from Scotland, second-hand, and had been in use since 1815.

This is verbatim from Parks Canada:

“Curved reflectors concentrated and intensified the light rays from seven Argand burners, named for their Swiss inventor. Lamps and reflectors were arranged on a metal frame, which rotated slowly to produce a 17-second flash of white light, followed by 43 seconds of darkness. The movement of the light was controlled by a clockwork mechanism.

As technology progressed, the light underwent many changes. The last of the lights that resided in the old Cape Spear lighthouse was a glass dioptric system, installed in 1912. First lit by oil, acetylene was adopted in 1916, and electricity in 1930. In 1955, the dioptric system was moved to a new light tower, not far from the original lighthouse.”

Seems complicated.There are all sorts of winding trails in and around the lighthouses.  Some of the trails lead through bunkers left as a reminder of the Second World War.  They were constructed as defense posts and barracks when German submarines and raiders threatened the island between 1941 and 1945.

Today the barracks and bunkers serve as sheltered places to observe the immense natural setting around you.  The exposed environment of the Cape has made everything around here tough and weathered, and all the vegetation grows bonsai style.From Cape Spear you can see the whole world stretching before you in an immense span of blue sea and blue sky.  You can really get a feel for what it felt like when the first European explorers landed here and surveyed the vast unknown.

Tourist at Home: Bell Island

On a gorgeous Saturday morning we made a trip to Bell Island.

We drove to Portugal Cove-St. Phillip’s, about twenty minutes north of St. John’s, and waited next to a waterfall for the ferry to take us away.

A trip on the ferry costs nearly nothing, and you pay the fare only once to get on and off the island.  The ride there was pretty awesome, and we all took lots of pictures.The ferry itself was super-ghetto, which made it also cool.

Bell Island was settled by farmers in the early 1700s.  Iron was discovered there in the late 1800s, which made Bell Island into a thriving mining community.  The mine closed in 1966, however, and since then the population, once around 12,000, has declined to less than 4,000.  Most Bell Islanders live in the incorporated town of Wabana, but a few live in the smaller towns of Lance Cove and Freshwater.  The mine is open to tourists, but unfortunately we were about two weeks too early to get a tour.

Fun fact for you.  Bell Island was one of the only places in North America to see enemy action during WWII.  A pier where 80,000 tonnes of iron ore was stored in preparation for shipping was torpedoed by the German u-boats in 1942.  Supposedly at low tide you can see the wrecks of the four ships that were sunk in that battle, and there stands a memorial for the 69 men who died in the conflict.

Unfortunately we got lost (hard to do on such a small island, but we managed) and we didn’t make it to that memorial.

We did, however, find a beach.

There was a duck who had it in for me.  Cait chased it away with her scary red boots.And a boat that probably didn’t float.

And a seagull.

On an old wharf with missing pieces and a warning sign.And some rocks, which the Pie threw into the ocean (surprise, surprise).

And an inukshuk, which I built.

Cait found a rock with a happy face on it, so we gave the statue some expression.

We drove around a bit more, and then we found the lighthouse, which made the entire day worth our while.  This shot reminds me of an Alex Colville painting.

There were warning signs everywhere about unstable coast line, which we ignored, and were glad we did.  Well all of us except the Pie, who worries about such things.

The lighthouse sat on the edge of an enormous cliff.

Below it were some utterly fantastic land forms. 

This huge broken piece had all sorts of little caves underneath it and the water was so blue.It reminded me of some kind of pirate meeting place.I crawled over some strawberries to get some of the photos.  The ants living there didn’t like it very much and I was soon covered with the little buggers.

This mini staircase was at the edge of the parking lot.  You could pick it apart with your hands, which made me a little glad I hadn’t gone right to the edge of the cliffs.

I think this is a pitcher plant.Behind the lighthouse it looked like the horizon stretched off and ended abruptly, and it actually did.  You can see in this photo, where the grass ends is just empty air.  The cliff drop-off is staggering.  You really do get the impression that you are at the end of the world.  Most of Newfoundland is like that.

We ate lunch at Dick’s, a family restaurant celebrating its 60th year in operation.  I enjoyed my sandwich. It had a nice view.  The restaurant, not the sandwich.The ferry back was slightly newer, and we passed the old on on the way.  And a sailboat. 

It was such a nice day.

Tourist at Home: Signal Hill and The Battery

Alidoesit’s 100th post!
Cait and iPM’s visit started with some cheese.Okay, with a heckuvalotta cheese.  Good Ontario cheese. A week later and we’ve barely dented it.  Best house guest present ever when you live in the land that cheese forgot.

Anyway, then the visit progressed.  We tried to show our friends the best of our little island in the middle of the North Atlantic.  I think that we did a pretty good job.

We started with the obvious: Signal Hill National Historic Site.

You can see this place from all over St. John’s, which made it an ideal site for observation and communication over the last four hundred or so years.  You can even see it from our house, in the winter, when the trees are all naked.

Long before ship-to-shore radio, flags raised on signal masts on the hill would tell merchants and the military in St. John’s about the types of vessels heading into the narrow harbour.

The hill also became the strategic location for the city’s military defenses, beginning in the 18th century and continuing through the Second World War.

St. John’s, a coveted port by the French, the English, and to a lesser extent, the Portuguese, fell from British control to the French in 1696, 1705, and again in 1709.  The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 recognized British sovereignty over Newfoundland, but that only temporarily ended the conflict between the French and the English.

The last battle of the Seven Years’ War was fought in St. John’s in 1762. In June of 1762 the French succeeded in again capturing St. John’s, but lost it again in September.  Lt. Col. Amherst took strategic advantage when he captured Signal Hill first, and bombarded the city with its own guns.  The historic Fort Amherst is located across the Narrows on the other side of the harbour.

Fortification of the hill began at this point, and was enough to successfully deter the French yet again in 1796.  Military barracks were built on the hill and around it in the 1830s, and it was re-fortified during the American Civil War. 

During the First World War, a contingent of the Newfoundland Legion of Frontiersmen manned the fort for St. John’s defense.  In the Second World War, the Americans maintained anti-aircraft artillery, coastal defense guns, and a mobile battery at Signal Hill.  Fortunately St. John’s did not see any action during these two wars.  In fact, Signal Hill was a place for healing.  Three different hospitals called it home between 1870 and 1920.  It was from one of these hospitals that Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
Between 1898 and 1900, Cabot Tower, that landmark most visible around the city, was built in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s Voyage of Discovery. The tower was used for signaling until 1960, and now it contains a gift shop and a museum commemorating Marconi’s efforts. 

Below Signal Hill is the historic Battery, a set of ancient fishing houses, stages, and stores that are an echo of the way the city used to be, when there were no roads and everyone traveled by boat.

The streets here are too narrow to drive, and the brightly painted houses lining them are old and tiny.  It is a beautiful place for a walk.Or even just to sit and stare.