One man’s junk is another man’s treasure

Looking out onto Lake Ontario from my father-in-law’s backyard at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, I had no idea what surprises were hidden at the bottom of these cliffs. Coming from the north, I was awestruck by the lush greenery on either side of me and was curious about the area below where few people could be spotted walking along the gravel road.

Overlooking the Bluffs

Overlooking the Bluffs

Lush greenery surrounding us

Lush greenery surrounding us

After inquiring about ways of getting to the bottom of the Bluffs, we walked down a sloped trail at the base of which was a metal sculpture by Marlene Hilton Moore to honour artist Doris McCarthy. The sculpture resembles the ribs of a canoe or a fish. More information about the dates etched at the base of each rib and the interpretation of the piece can be found by clicking on the image. [Update 2010/05/02 – A sincere thanks to John McEwen for pointing out my egregious error.]

Passage by Doris McCarthy

Passage by Marlene Hilton Moore

It’s almost unbelievable that an area surrounded by millions of people can be so deserted: we met a couple walking their dogs and a trio of kids on bikes scrounging for metal by the look of the copper pipes poking crookedly out of their backpacks.

Ontario & NL 2009 077

The length of shore we strolled along seems to have been the recipient of scraps from demolished buildings. Perhaps this mixture of concrete, glass, and other debris were dumped there to help the breakwaters. There are also stories floating around that tell of the  ship Alexandria that sunk in 1915 near the Scarborough Bluffs and the possibility that some of the bits from the ship has washed up.

If I lived in the area, I would be the first to haul back scrap from the beach. There are pieces of eroded bricks, some that still have porcelain or ceramic tiles still attached to them which would make great conversation pieces. There are also rust-coloured egg-shaped rocks, obviously eroded red bricks (unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of them). I pictured a bed of this red stone/brick on a landscaped surface under green shrubs or bordering a flower bed.

A find

Ontario & NL 2009 087

Ontario & NL 2009 086

Since bringing rocks back over 5500 km didn’t seem like a smart idea, I opted for a smaller kind of treasure: beach glass.

An ex-boyfriend turned me on to beach glass hunting where salt water meets the rocky shores of the Bras D’Or in Cape Breton. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours walking along rocky beaches from Haines, Alaska, to St. John’s, Newfoundland, looking for these little treasures polished by the waves’ action.

There are many, many pieces you have to throw back into the water to let Mother Nature continue her work, and it can take hours to find only a few bits worthy of pocketing. But here on this empty shoreline with nothing more than a few ducks nearby and flocks of geese overhead, it only took a few minutes before I spotted my first keeper. After searching for less than a couple of hours, I walked away with a handful of glittering glass. I felt like I had found the motherlode.

Sure you can buy the sandblasted kind by the bag, and they’re everywhere in custom jewellery shops, but in my eyes, these man-made replicas are comparable to plastic rings found at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

Where are these tiny colourful gems from? How long have they been in the water? There’s so much mystery around each piece of glass. Oh, one can speculate, but you never really know: broken bottles, glass from ships, garbage dumped? Regardless, they’re my little treasures now to do with as I wish.

Playing with my camera in St. John’s

Colours

Colours I

Colours II

Colours II

Colours III

Colours III

Colours IV

Colours IV

Rocks Meet Water

Rocks Meet Water

Anchor I

Anchor I

Anchor II

Anchor II

My Anchor

My Anchor

Brick Pattern

Brick Pattern

Imperfection

Imperfection

Light

Light

Bollards

Bollards

Window Pans

Window Pans

Wellies on a Sunny Day: New Fashion Statements

Wellies on a Sunny Day: New Fashion Statements

Workers on Water St.

Workers on Water St.

A trip down memory lane

As much as flying reduces the time needed to get somewhere, driving has so many advantages. You get to appreciate the scenery, and you can stop and explore little nooks and crannies.

For example, this summer was the second time I drove through Saskatchewan. Anyone who’s not from the prairies always describes them as flat with nothing to see (except maybe your dog running away for three days…old joke). Except, of course, for those living there,  Canadians in general do not have an appreciation for the prairies. I was one of them. This last drive has opened my eyes to the beauty of this part of our country.

It was very early in the morning when we drove through, and a layer of mist hung over the fields of bright yellow canola. Some fields had cattle lazily grazing with tails flicking. With the sun’s morning rays being filtered by the mist, the view was heavenly. At regular intervals along the road, ponds and marshes were nestled inside tall stands of trees.

Why didn’t I stop to take a photo? I don’t know. Maybe I was wrapped up in the beauty of it all. It was so peaceful.

When visiting family in Ontario, I don’t usually get to uncles, aunts, and cousins because they’re spread out. Driving through, this year, afforded me the opportunity to stop in and say hello.

One such stop was in Astorville (near North Bay) at my grandmother’s old farmhouse. She’s passed away now, but my uncle purchased the property and has been living there for some time.

Gauthier Farm

Gauthier Farm

Renovations on the old house have drastically changed the look of it, but some old parts on the inside are still recognizable: the large wooden beams in the original living room are now painted white; the upstairs, where my sister and I used to sleep during our traditional Easter visit, is left almost untouched; and the postage stamp-sized kitchenette-cum-bathroom is still there. Again, why didn’t I take pictures of the inside?

The Renovated House

The Renovated House

Memories came flooding back when I took a tour around the property. Dave and I had to make our own path through tall grasses to get to the old tree house from my childhood. The path is long gone, and I worried about poison ivy (or was it poison oak) that grew in and around the area when I was a kid. Here’s Dave, who stands 6’6″, in the grasses. They were as tall as I am.

Dave in the tall grasses

Dave in the tall grasses

I couldn’t miss the tree. There it stood like an old faithful friend, waiting for the return of little hands and feet searching for crevices to grab onto, waiting for the whispered secrets and squeaky laughs of children hiding up on the rugged platform, and ready and able to take in the pounding of nails into its hard frame to support the memories that would be built in and around it.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful: A couple of wooden boards are still visible

My sister, my uncle (who, incidentally, was my sister’s age), and I worked on that tree house a little bit each year. My uncle did the bulk of the work since it was in his backyard, while we were there only a few days each year. But how we loved to climb those crooked wooden rungs and sit up high overlooking surrounding fields. It was our own little nook.

While looking up at my childhood friend, my mind wandered back to a tumble I once had, and my right hand instantly reached for a small ridge on my left hand between the thumb and index finger. There’s still a scar there thirty-three years later. The details are fading, but kids being kids, my sister and I had had a spat, and I was now barred from the tree house. Ignoring her warnings not to come up, I stubbornly kept climbing the rungs until she gave me a hard push. Down I went with the wrong end of a rusty nail finding its way into my hand. All is long-forgiven now, and when my sister and I get together, we laugh ’til we cry telling stories from the old farm house.

Remains of old tree house 2-compr.

A rotting platform remains

The Rock: Part III

These photographs from St.John’s focus on two of the most important landmarks in the area: Signal Hill and Cape Spear.

Cape Spear is the easternmost point in North America. My coming from the Yukon where Canada’s westernmost point is located made this visit all the more interesting. Below is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland, located at Cape Spear. Construction began in 1834:

Old Lighthouse at Cape Spear

Old Lighthouse at Cape Spear

Below is the new operating lighthouse at Cape Spear:

New Lighthouse at Cape Spear

New Lighthouse at Cape Spear

Notice the outhouse hanging over the edge, no longer in operation I might add. Yikes!

No need of a "honey-dipper" on that one

No need of a "honey-dipper" on that one

There are trails around the harbour and narrows that have breathtaking views. Here I am sitting on the stone wall just below Cabot Tower overlooking The Narrows. You can get a peek of Cape Spear in the background.

Sitting atop Signal Hill

Sitting atop Signal Hill

Looking back toward the harbour from Signal Hill:

St.John's Harbour from Signal Hill

St.John's Harbour from Signal Hill

Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill, near where the first trans-Atlantic wireless message was received by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901. (I wonder if they called him Elmo).

Cabot Tower at Signal Hill

Cabot Tower at Signal Hill

Some of the surplus stones from the building of the Cabot Tower along with those from the recently demolished St. George’s Hospital were used for the houses below. The builder and designer of the Cabot Tower, Samuel Garrett, built these homes for his daughters. They were connected with doorways in the inside walls and are now referred to as the Temperance Street Houses or the Samuel Garrett Houses:

Temperance Street Houses - compr

A close-up view of the stonework on Cabot Tower:

Brickwork on Cabot Tower

Stonework on Cabot Tower

The Rock: Part II

As promised, here are a few more pictures from Newfoundland.

The first pic is of a little fishing port, Bauline, and I had to spend some time searching online to make sure it was, indeed, where I thought it was. Really, I need to start taking notes when taking pictures as I end up not remembering where exactly the photos are from.

Little Fishing Port (Bauline?)

Bauline

This second photo was taken near the same place as the boat ladder, and again, I’m not quite sure where it was taken. It’s at some little cove on a sideroad off of Hwy 60. If anyone out there knows where this is, let me know.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck

We stopped for lunch and sat out on the deck of a little family-owned restaurant in Spaniard’s Bay. I had Jigs Pie (a variation of Jigs Dinner, sort of a pot pie) and my hunny had Fish ‘N Brewis.

Spaniard's Bay

Spaniard's Bay

More pictures to come.

The Rock: Part I

When telling people where we were travelling from this summer, most people were curious about the Yukon. After all, most Canadians are clueless about the North. After describing this wonderful place we live in, I often talked about the story most Yukoners are familiar with. They planned on visiting for a week, a summer, a year, and end up never leaving. “You’ll never go back if you come for a visit.” It was only in Newfoundland where people would respond, ” Oh yes I would!”

I should have known. Silly me. It’s obvious how they feel just by taking a peek at many traditional Newfoundland songtitles:

  • Back Home in  Newfoundland
  • Back in Newfoundland
  • Come Home to Newfoundland
  • Down Home in Newfoundland
  • Gotta Get Back to Newfie
  • Hills of My Newfoundland Home
  • I’m Coming Home to You Newfoundland
  • My Home Newfoundland
  • My Newfoundland Home
  • Newfoundland Is Calling, Welcome Home Again

Indeed, as we are proud of our adopted home, they are too of their native home. So, here’s my ode to Newfoundland:

We had planned on taking the ferry over to Bell Island. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it. So I’ll just have to stare at this photograph I took from a distance…until my next trip.

Bell Island

Bell Island

Somewhere north of Torbay off the highway (60)…a little sideroad….cove? (I really need to take notes when taking pictures), I’m not sure where, there was this boat ladder. Maybe there’s a more accurate term, but I’d never seen one before.

Boat Ladder

Boat Ladder

And what would be photos of Newfoundland without Jellybean Row? They kind of remind me of the Smarty Houses in Inuvik, NWT.

NL Jellybean Houses 2-compr.

Jellybean Row

Jellybean Row

Jellybean Row

NL Overlooking the narrows-compr.

Overlooking the Narrows

St. John's Harbour

St. John's Harbour

Suited up and ready for a tour

Suited up and ready for a tour

Dave suited up for the tour

Dave suited up for the tour

I should mention that we hired O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours. We didn’t see any whales. Apparently the capelin were late coming, and the whales rely on these for food. Regardless, we had a blast. We were on a Zodiak with two other couples, and I think our captain gave us an extra thrill with all the bouncing in the waves. I’ve never laughed so hard. As for the more serious stuff, we did see puffins and other sea birds.

Puffins and other sea birds

Puffins and other sea birds

I’ll stop here, and I’ll post more photos on a later post.

Photo Challenge

When it comes to a tag involving photographs, I’m all over it. Similar to a recent one I posted, Don’t Bug Me has tagged anyone who’s interested to post the fourth photo from the fourth folder (unlike my recent one where it was the sixth of the sixth). Anyway, here goes:

Caribou Lake

Caribou Lake

The photo above was taken the weekend before my wedding. I visited my aunt and uncle, and they took me fishing at a friend’s lodge called Bear Paw Lodge. I’ve blogged about this great fishing experience before. Here is a photo taken from almost the same spot, just a few minutes later [and zoomed in]:

Caribou Lake

Caribou Lake

And then there’s the dock:

Docked

Docked

One of the cabins:

Caribou Cabin

Caribou Cabin

And what would such a beautiful lake be without delicious pickerel?

Fishing at Bear Paw Lodge

Fishing at Bear Paw Lodge

So, now it’s your turn.

Is Soapy Smith’s Spectre Still Swindling in Skagway?

The drive to Skagway is quite spectacular to say the least. It’s easy to bring visiting family and friends for a pleasant day trip, as it only takes two hours to drive there. Yesterday was a perfect autumn day for it, and only one cruiseship was docked, which meant no fighting for sidewalk space.

One of the popular landmarks in Skagway is the Red Onion Saloon, a bordello turned eatery. The place has much flavour of the goldrush days: ladies are dressed in corsets and wear bright red lipstick.

Since I was bringing a visitor for the touristy stuff Skagway has to offer, and trust me, there is much of that, I decided to take her for lunch at the famed red velvet curtained establishment. I wouldn’t say the food and service is outstanding, but it is good, and the prices are very reasonable.

However, when I received my bill at the end of the meal, this is what I got:

I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I was downright insulted. Not only did she write down a tip without even implying that it was just a suggestion, but she was trying for about 20% in tips. This was insulting not because of the level of service or the quality of food, but because of her presumption.

We called her over to the table and first asked if we were expected to pay the $39.00 or if it was just a suggested tip. She said it was a suggestion.

I then mentioned to her that I am from Whitehorse (most of their business is from cruiseship passengers) and have been at the Red Onion on a number of occasions, and I have never ever seen a server do this. Was this something new? She replied that “we get people here from all around the world, and sometimes people don’t know how to tip, so this is just to help them.” She’s helping herself more than anything else in my opinion.

We reassured her that the food and the service were very good, but that the norm for tipping is 15%, not 20%, and that we felt that she was being very forward by indicating a 20% tip on the tab for herself.

In the end, I did leave her a good tip (a little more than 15% but not the requested amount). She eventually came by the table to collect payment and apologized, which I was pleased about, but I have to wonder if “Madam Jan” doesn’t have something going with ‘ol Soapy Smith, the most famed con artist in Skagway’s history. Maybe his ghost resides in the old Red Onion Saloon.

——————————

To leave you with a more pleasant impression of our drive, here are a few photos taken in and around Carcross, Yukon, the halfway point:

My Mosaic Quilt

My Mosaic Quilt

My Mosaic Quilt

A recent post by English Mum gave me the idea of trying this in the classroom with high school students next week. We’re always looking for ways to break the ice and get to know everyone. I will/did change some of the questions like, “What school did you go to,” for obvious reasons.

So, within the first week of class, this is one of the assignments I’ll give to students in Grades 9/10:

First you take a list of questions:

  1. What is your first name?
  2. What is your favourite food?
  3. What school did you go to? [I’ll have to change this one]
  4. Where was your mother born (town/city)? [Used this and #10, as most were born here]
  5. What is your favourite thing to do?
  6. What is your favourite drink? [How I got the old man when entering “red wine” is a mystery]
  7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  8. What is your favourite dessert?
  9. What do you want to do when you grow up?
  10. Who/ what do you love most in life?
  11. Choose one word that describes you?
  12. Where was your father born (town/city) [Again, adapted to the kids]

Next, type your answer to the questions into a flickr search, then using only the first page, click on an image. Copy and paste each of the urls into the Mosaic Maker.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Bears

These bear photos are for Moon & Mrs. M.:

Black Bear

Black Bear

Another Black Bear

Another Black Bear

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Mom & Baby

Mom & Baby (photo courtesy of a friend)

Bear Attack

Bear Attack

This is my dog, Smidgen, after a walk a couple of winters ago. She was frolicking in the snow, as usual, and I was trying to capture her photo. Of course, she kept leaping out of the deep snow toward me to play.

Smidgen's Head

Smidgen's Head

She finally popped her head out of the snow and was distracted long enough for me to snap this one.

My Fave

My Fave

Finally, I get a good picture. I know it’s the wrong time of year to be posting these winter photos, but it’s cold enough to warrant it.

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