Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Right Coast Nova Scotia

The Right Coast is Nova Scotia. "You must mean east coast", someone once said to me. That too but not exactly. Because I like to make lists, I'll explain to you what I mean.

Fishing buoys in Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia1. Geographically speaking, on the North American continent, there's Canada. Nova Scotia is on the right hand side. You know, the eye naturally falls to the right.

2. I lived on the west coast for eleven years. My husband and I did what thousands of other new graduates do, we moved there to work. British Columbia was beautiful in many ways. Our children were born there, we made lifelong friends who made us part of the family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. My husband and I knew that there was something missing, even with a nice house and really good jobs, our lives were not complete. We realized that we wanted our children to not only see their grandparents and aunt and uncles every two years for a week or two at a time. It's tough to form a relationship that way, yet alone maintain one. While it was a painful decision to uproot ourselves to move east, we made the plunge. And plunge we did. With no guarantee of a job in Nova Scotia, we quit our secure ones, sold our house and everything we owned. We made a right hand turn and kept going until be bumped our noses on the Atlantic.

3. This is home. I grew up in a small fishing community on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I was envious of those who could watch cable television, hang out at an arcade and do all those cool things that a teenager could do. While my city slicker friends were mastering Pacman, I was jigging mackerel from the wharf. While none of these things are not necessarily better than the other, they are different and years later I realize that cleaning a fish is a good skill to have. My childhood experiences were humble yet rich.

Fishing buoy and wharf in Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia4. The people are "some" nice. On Twitter I asked the following question: What makes Nova Scotia the "right coast" for you to live? Basically all of the responses made reference to the people. Words like "authenticity", "warm, kind and fun to be with" came up. Of course, people are nice wherever you go but it's Nova Scotians who capture tourists hearts and uphold our reputation.

For these reasons, Nova Scotia truly is the right coast for me. What are yours?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baking Bread, One Year at a Time

It's been exactly one entire year that I've been baking bread. One whole big fat year of not bringing home the store made stuff. My mother in law taught me, then I was guided along by my father and uncle. I make my bread the traditional way, I don't use a bread maker. I use good ol' elbow grease.

I'm more and more surprised about how many people make their own bread. Once I was told that "men make the nicest bread because they knead it better." Hmmm. Them's fight'n words!

After a year of trial and error, I honestly think my ego would take a beating if I bought a loaf at the store. I take such pride in my bread making. It's usually different every time. A handful of oatmeal or wheat germ or flax seed. Whatever is in the cupboard at the time. I love the creativity and simplicity of bread making.

My grandfather had a bakery near Bedford, Nova Scotia and he was well known for his bread. My uncle, who worked in the bakery alongside him, often gives me wonderful advise. When I was a young girl coming home from school, my father would just be taking bread out of the oven. Despite his warnings to never to cut into a warm loaf of bread, I'd cut into it anyway. Absolute heaven.

Fresh whole wheat breadAs I sit here typing, I have dough rising. In a few minutes I'll put it into pans to and put them in the oven. When the aroma is lofting throughout the house, the kids will appear. My daughter will make the margarine out of the fridge and get the Grohmann bread knife ready. The bread will be minutes old and still warm from the oven when the first slices are devoured. I won't be telling my kids to wait until the bread is cooled before slicing. No way, I'll be sitting in the kitchen eating a slice along with them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Early Sign of Spring

Crocus bud in late January in Halifax, Nova Scotia CanadaIt's late January in Halifax, Nova Scotia and look what I found popping out of the snow yesterday. A crocus. Doesn't it make your heart sing!

I think, just like's annual Fall Leaf Watch updates, where people across Nova Scotia can give daily progress reports on the colours of leaves in their areas, there should also be a daffodil or crocus or tulip watch. Just a thought.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all seasons but a little greenery this time of year sure is nice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Retreat at Oak Island Resort

5 women
2 nights
1 chalet
= Good times at Oak Island Resort

On the coldest weekend of the year, we ventured along Nova Scotia's South Shore for an all "girlz" weekend. A couple times a year, my girlfriends and I book a trip away. It could be Montreal, New York, or the Aspotogan Peninsula. We're not fussy, anywhere we go we make our own fun. By the end of the weekend our sides hurt from laughing so much.

Sea smoke in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia CanadaThe last girls weekend was no different. We checked into a chalet at Oak Island Resort on a Friday afternoon. Cocooned from the -23C temperatures outside. The next morning, we sat next to the warmth of the fireplace, sipped coffee and watched sea smoke billowing beside Oak Island, located off in the distance in Mahone Bay. You know it's darn cold when there's sea smoke. This picture was taken from a chair in our living room.

Jacuzzi hot tub at Oak Island Resort in Nova Scotia CanadaWhile some of us had spa treatments, others worked out at the fully-equipped gym to be rewarded later in a refreshing swim in the pool and a soak in the hot tub. The pool and hot tub area is encased in large windows and offers a panoramic view of Mahone Bay and the marina. The sauna room was also taken advantage of, a welcome treat considering the frigid temperature outdoors.

Winter coastline at Oak Island Resort in Nova Scotia CanadaFollowing our swim and soak, a couple of us stayed behind to read a book or make an earnest attempt at the Saturday crossword. One couldn't help but look up from the lounge chair and out at the gorgeous view. Later, we moved to the large fireplace off the main lobby where we read the newspaper and munched on a plate of sweet potatoe fries. Before sunset, one sole adventurer couldn't resist a walk along the shore and brought back beautiful pictures to our cozy chalet.

Pirate guarding Oak Island's TreasureLegend has it that there is treasure on Oak Island. The Oak Island Money Pit, "the worlds greatest treasure hunt", is privately owned. For 200 years, men have attempted to dig through the booby traps and unscramble a secret code that leads to the treasure. Some say it's a hoax but others are adamant that there is gold to be found. There is a lot of debate as to how the treasure got there to begin with, yet alone who buried it. Maybe pirates? The islands investors work closely with the Oak Island Tourism Society (OITS), and promote the Oak Island Money Pit as a fascinating heritage site with the aim of 'securing the rights to operate guided tours on Oak Island'.

While the lure of hunting for treasure was far from our minds, we had our very own treasure in the form of friendship. A treasure that is priceless. For that, I am thankful.

For more info:
Oak Island Resort
Oak Island Treasure
Oak Island Tourism Society

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Remembering the days of summer

Sifting through my web album earlier I came across pictures taken during the summer months. Remember summer? It's hard for me to remember complaining about the heat when I'm too busy complaining about the cold. No doubt, before long, those dog days of summer will be here. These are a few pictures of summer to remind you it's on its way. Promise.

Waves splashing your feet at Taylor Head Provincial Park, Nova Scotia Pomquet Beach, Nova Scotia

Black-eyed Susan Mushroom in Taylor Head Provincial Park in Nova Scotia

Driving to Stan Rogers Folk Festival

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

10 Outdoor Winter Activities in NS

It's early January and already I'm shack wacky. Even though I am getting lots of fresh air as I train for The Hypothermic Half Marathon, I still want to "do" something. For the last couple days I've been suffering a mild case of writers block. A few months ago I was bursting with ideas on things to blog about. Now it's January and I'm not even inspired to clean the kitchen floor (okay, I'm never inspired to do that). I blame it on the January blahs. So, to help me shake out of it, I got a hair cut. Somewhere between the pungent smell of hair dye and purring like cat with someone playing with my hair, a thought popped into my head - write about how to get the "ick" out of January.

10 Activities to Get The "ick" Out of January- in no particular order:

1. Outdoor Photography
Yes, at this time of year we curse the ice and snow but before you reach for that shovel and ice pick, discover the beauty in the white stuff. Take a picture of it. Get close-up, and zoom in on an icicle.

The Photographic Guild of Nova Scotia motivates its members and guests with seminars, workshops and field trips for all levels of shutterbugs. Their next field trip is January 25th (Eagle Watching in Sheffield Mills).

2. Eagle Watching

January and February are the best months for viewing eagles and the Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch is where you'll be guaranteed some action. This annual event runs Jan. 24 - 25, 2009 and Jan. 31 - Feb. 1, 2009 and is in its 18th year. Near Kentville, this community comes alive with eagle watchers. There are lots of viewing areas so bring your camera a knock off items #1 and #2 from this list.

3. Snowshoeing
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Follow these handy tips and get ready to burn a lot of calories with this safe, low impact sport. Thanks to technological improvements from the cumbersome wooden variety, you can choose to do a leisurely stroll or a full out sprint.

Snowshoeing in Guysborough is easy. Just sign out a pair of snowshoes (they're free) from the Guysborough Fitness Centre and then explore around the grounds of the Osprey Shores Golf Resort. I'm also told that snowshoeing is fabulous on Five Islands Provincial Park's hiking trails. While the park is officially closed for the season, no one minds if you strap on your shoes. Be safe!
For more info:
Nova Scotia trails (maintained during winter)

4. Winter Surfing
Watch them, cheer them on while standing firmly with hot chocolate in hand from the beach. This is really something to see and at Lawrencetown beach is where you'll find these brave people. Hot tub dude?
Click on the image to watch a winter surfing video (January 4th, 2009)
For more info:
Scotia Surfer

Surf Nova Scotia

5. Geo caching
Geocaching is an outdoor high-tech treasure hunting game by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches (with "treasures" inside), and then share your experiences online. If you take a treasure, you must leave one for the next person. Did you know that Nova Scotia’s first cache was also the first in Canada? Placed: Jun 18th, 2000. Today, there are 709,820 active geocaches around the world. Wow.
For more info:
Maritime Geocaching Association
Stonehame Lodge and Chalets-Weekend Geocaching Packages

6. Winter Camping
Grab your wool, polypropylene, hydrophobic, Polarguard, Hollofil, Quallofil, Primaloft, Microloft, Thinsulate, pile and fleece and do good research before you set out.
Kejimkujik National Park offers wonderful sites in Jeremy's Bay and has four warm-up shelters. In the backcountry, 8 campsites and 2 backcountry cabins are available. Call the Visitor Centre (open on weekends) for more information and backcountry reservations (1-902-682-2772). Get inspired by watching an episode of Survivor Man.

7. Sliding
I'm usually corrected when I say "coasting" but I grew up saying it on the Eastern Shore. Must be a Maritime saying. Whatever you call it, it really gets the heart rate up. It's self-explanatory, find a hill, get on something that slides and go. While it's not wise to wear suede, it sure is fun.

There are too many hills to name but for a thrill, slide down the steep hills at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal. What a rush.

Chedabucto Bay also calls tobogganing "coasting" (so there!) and a hill curving down to a dock in Mussel Cove is a local popular spot. No need to bring your own, as a guest at the DesBarres Manor Inn you'll be provided with your own slider or coaster (whatever you call it). Nuff said.

8. Dog Sledding
Long before there were airplanes and snowmobiles, dog sled dogs were once one of the main methods of transportation in the Arctic regions. There is a lot of coordination in dog sledding. All dogs must run approximately the same velocity and be about the same size as the dog to their lateral position. Mushers have to be in good physical shape and carry tasty rewards for the dogs.

Simple sled dog commands:
"Mush!" -- Let's Go
"Gee!" -- Turn Right
"Haw!" -- Turn Left
"Whao!" -- Slow or Stop
"On by!" -- Straight Ahead
Click on the video to see one persons first dog sledding adventure in Cape Breton.
For more info:
Guided dog sledding tours in Cape Breton

9. Skiing
What's your style? Downhill or Cross Country or Snowboard? These activities will get your cheeks red and give you a good nights sleep.

For more info:
Ski Martock
Ski Wentworth
Cross Country Ski Areas in Nova Scotia

10. Ice Fishing
Handy check-list:
Power Auger- check
Fishing rod- check
Fishing hut- check
Fish finder- check (hey, isn't that cheating?)
No matter, there's smelt and trout to be found in the cold water.
For more info
Canada Adventures Guide (they do hut rentals)
Pond skating in Nova Scotia, Canada
More winter activity ideas:
Bay of Fundy Tourism
Winter in Nova Scotia
Authentic Seacoast Winter Packages

It's your turn, what are YOUR 10 outdoor winter activities!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, NS

Caution: Dog lovers may experience some dog envy.

New signage at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova ScotiaOn a chilly afternoon, we decided to go for a walk around Point Pleasant Park in Halifax's south end. Following along the popular main trail off Tower Road, we turned left and headed down the hill that led us to the outer edge of the park. The outer perimeter of Point Pleasant Park measures 3.2 kilometers, making it a fantastic stroll for walkers or a route for runners. One of Halifax's great civic spaces, the park provides magnificent views of ships and yachts entering and leaving Halifax's busy harbour. Its roads and trails wind through the forest and among military ruins, rocky hills and ravines.

At many locations along the trails you'll come across feeders filled with seeds or oatmeal. Critters such as chickadees and squirrels find some sustenance in these feeders as well as from park visitors. Next time you go, fill your pockets with sunflower seeds. Look for a wooded area, stand really still, extend your hand with seeds and soon chickadees will appear and eat right out of your hand. This time of year is perfect for this because their food sources are low. Squirrels? I haven't tried hand feeding them, yet.

Because of its location, the park is exposed to the harsh elements. Just a week before we visited, there was a bad winter storm. These storms wash up sea urchins, mussels, sea weed etc. It's here where adults and children alike can crunch along as they stomp on shells. Seagulls and crows feast at low tide. It's amazing to watch them put a mussel in their beak, then fly into the air and let the mussel drop onto the ground. Natures fast food.

In September, 2003, Point Pleasant Park was devastated by Hurricane Juan. Nearly three quarters of the park's trees were knocked down and the park remained closed until June 2004. While there are still trees remaining, the park now has a very thin canopy. In some areas where you couldn't see the ocean, now you can. However, in June 2008 over 70,000 Acadian forest trees have been planted in the park, surpassing the number of trees lost to Hurricane Juan.

In the wake of Hurricane Juan, it was realized that a long term vision and strategy was needed to renew the park. A steering committee of volunteers and city staff oversaw an international design competition to set this vision and strategy in motion. In October 2008, the Point Pleasant Park Comprehensive Plan was presented to HRM Regional Council. This plan will assist in the direction, management, and operation of Point Pleasant Park now, and for many years to come.

Useful links:
Prince of Wales National Historic Site
Shakespeare by the Sea

Thursday, January 1, 2009

All the Best in 2009

Happy New Year from Nova Scotia

Thank you for reading this blog. I look forward to sharing more stories and adventures in the coming year.

Have a healthy and prosperous 2009,