The Blogger Who Went Missing and Can’t Stay On Topic

Tomorrow I am going to meet with friends to talk about blogging.  It is not easy to keep writing blogs over time.  Some of it might be the knowledge that if you slow down and then stop blogging you may find out no one really cares.  I recall a segment in one of Garrison Keillor’s CD’s (it was a tape when I first heard it), The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.   He talks about hosting a university radio program on classical music.  He took it on mostly to impress a girl he admired but had never spoken to.  He screwed up his courage and asked her, one day, if she listened to the program and she said “All the time”.  The next day the sound engineer told him there had been a transmitter problem and the show had basically not gone out over the waves for several months. And no listener had called in to ask why.  In other words, no one missed him.

Blogging, is sort of like that.  It might be fun while you do it but when you quit, well, unless you’ve got a special talent or topic or you’re a celebrity, no one misses you.  That said, I am happy to share the little I know about blogging with others who plan to use the platform for good things.  Their interest has piqued mine.  I went so far as to change the picture from a winter scene (it hasn’t been winter for months) to one that looks like Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland at this time of year.

Since I haven’t blogged for so long I need to refresh my memory of how to do things and so will end with a totally unrelated (to the topic above) series of photos.   We were on a road trip to Eastern Canada earlier this month.  We logged 5700 km in two weeks traveling and sightseeing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Not long into the trip I started to take pictures of the salt and pepper shakers. Don’t ask me why.  I wish I’d thought of it one day earlier as I missed the little white Eiffel Tower set in Edmundston, NB. And so, to the seasonings of the Maritime provinces. 

And if there is anyone out there reading this, let me know.  

 

The Ups and Downs of Travel

It is a privilege, to travel for pleasure.  It’s not for everyone and not everyone can consider packing up and getting away for a while.  We travel from time to time and these are some observations about before, during and after being away:

  • Before we go away I do all manner of things unrelated to preparing to go away.  It seems I want to run myself short of packing time…and I usually do.   I do it every time we go away and cannot seem to help myself.  Any suggestions to break this very inefficient behaviour?
  • While getting ready to go I think of all the things I’d do if I stayed home.  I would clean and purge those basement shelves that have set there un-purged for a long time.    I would organize that stationery drawer and the linen closet if I stayed home.
  • If you order a salad in a restaurant and two bites in you discover a long hair is part of the repast, two things happen.  First your appetite diminishes substantially and second your meal becomes more economical as the manager “comps” it.  I’d prefer really to just pay for it and not find the hair.  
  • Audiobooks are a very good way to pass time in the car.  Providing the subject is of interest to everyone in the car.
  • When arriving in new city on a happening Friday, don’t wait till 7pm to try to find a place to eat.  It is the time when everyone else is looking to do the same thing.  Driving around from place to place doesn’t work.  

Do you have gems of travel wisdom to share with someone (me) who obviously could use them?

 

The Berkshires-Xu Bing at MASS MOCA

During our recent trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts we returned to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA.  The gallery space is amazing and the art is, well, modern.  It is my favourite contemporary art gallery (and that includes visits to modern art galleries in New York City and London, England)

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Inner beauty MASS MoCA
Inner beauty MASS MoCA

The work of Chinese artist Xu Bing is on display until later this year in a number of the galleries in MASS MoCA.  Xu Bing is one of the most important Chinese contemporary artist working today.  According to the gallery brochure “All of the works on view part of a series or are part of long-term projects that are still unfolding.” 

If you go, Phoenix is the installation you must see.  From the MASS MoCA website “The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today’s China.”  The work was originally commissioned by a real estate developer in China.  The work proved controversial, the funding was cut and other sources of support had to be secured.  

Each Phoenix is nearly 100 feet long and the two of them weigh over 20 tons.

The front of one Phoenix
The front of one Phoenix

Phoenix was scheduled to take four months to complete.  Due to several factors including the Beijing Olympics, the global financial crisis and the rejection by the real estate developers who commissioned the work, Phoenix took two years to complete.  The Artis Talk video inside the the MASS MoCA link above gives you a sense of the artist along with an explanation of his art.

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See the workers' shovels
See the workers’ shovels

The Phoenix is something to behold.  Trash from the construction site, workers shovels, construction hats and empty canisters and so many other remnants form two beautiful birds.  They are internally lit with LED lights.

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Single photos do small justice to the exhibit.  Phoenix and MASS Moca are both something to be seen.  If you have occasion to be anywhere close to North Adams MA, USA, a visit to MASS MoCA will not disappoint.

The Berkshires-A Prairie Home Companion and Cricket Creek Farm

We just returned from a week in the Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts.  There has been a lot of rain in the area but it didn’t rain every day, all day and that was a good thing.  It’s a pretty area and there is plenty to see and do.  

A Prairie Home Companion-Tanglewood 2013

Our week ended by attending (for the second year in a row), the live radio broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion (PHC) at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass.  It’s the 40th on air anniversary of PHC and the host Garrison Keillor and his weekly show are well-known. Well, that might be a stretch.  Let’s say they are well-known within the National Public Radio (NPR) followers and people who like music, humour, stories and a host who is a singer, humorist, author and an observer of life.   I wish we’d started attending this concert years ago and would like to attend for years to come.  While I am wishing, why not include staying longer and taking in more summer concerts at the summer home of the Boston Symphony.  The performances cover a broad range of tastes.  This year the Barenaked Ladies and Vince Gill are examples of artists who will be at Tanglewood.  

 It’s quite a spectacle.  Thousands of people stream onto the lawn around the Koussevitzky Music Shed up to two hours before the PHC performance.  They bring picnic lunches, fancy set-ups with tables and chairs and linens, wine glasses, candelabras, flags and flowers arranged in vases.  Many of the attendees have purchased lawn tickets and they sit outside as the sun sets and the show goes on.  The encores are legendary.  I heard one attendant tell someone the encores may last 1.5 to 3 hours!  The audience joins in, singing along until either they or the performers finally give in to the advancing hour.

Cricket Creek Farm, Stephentown, Mass.

Cricket Creek "working" farm
Cricket Creek “working” farm

We visited Cricket Creek Farm, where you can buy raw milk and milk products (legally available in Mass) where their beef are completely grass-fed, and the pigs feed on grass and whey and veggie compost – no grain.  Blog edit update: thank you to Topher from Cricket Creek Farm who kindly corrected my original blog on what the animals are fed.   You can buy sausage, free range eggs and chickens (you can see them ranging freely), fresh-baked goods and more.  You are welcome to explore the farm and advised to stay clear of working machinery and the various animal plops found on a farm.  

The Pigs Call This Home
The Pigs Call This Home
Cricket Creek Farm-The Store
Cricket Creek Farm-The Store

The farm has an honour store.  All the products are at hand.  You find what you want, add up the total on the calculator, put your money in the box making change as necessary and away you go.  We bought some butter (ingredients: cream), locally made blueberry spread, soap and raw cheese.  While we didn’t really check we thought it unlikely you could bring raw milk products back into Canada, so we brought them back on the inside (Of us, not the car. We ate them.).  It would be great if there was an enterprise like this closer to where we lived.  We should investigate.  

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I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan and our neighbours provided our milk and thick cream (unpasteurized) and in turn our mother gave them eggs.  From the milk Mom made butter, buttermilk and cottage cheese.  It’s been decades since I have tasted homemade butter.  On our trip we were listening to the book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.  It makes you think about what you eat, where it’s been raised and what happens to our food as it makes it way from producer to consumer.  And it’s not all that pretty, nor comforting.  

 Have you eaten raw milk and raw milk products?  Would you, if you had access to them? 

Have you been to the Berkshires and if so, what did you see and do?

Another Prince Edward..this time, the Island

One weekend we were in Prince Edward County in Ontario and the next weekend we were in Prince Edward Island (PEI), one of ten and the smallest of provinces in Canada.  Its area (just under 220 sq. miles) and population (just over 140,000 in total) means you can see a lot in a short time and while it is very busy in summer, early June is just before the really busy season.

We have been to PEI several times over the years and always during spring and summer months.  From those visits we have an image of an island that is predominately a green, idyllic rural landscape.  We know there’s some tough weather in other seasons.  It is the home of the author Lucy Maud Montgomery and there are places to visit remembering Anne of Green Gables throughout the province.  

Recipe for a idyllic stay in an idyllic setting:

  • Join cherished friends some who travel to, some who live in the province
  • Take time to enjoy a leisurely drive around at least some of the island
Red soil-ideal to grow potatoes
Red soil-ideal to grow potatoes

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  • Stay at one of the independently run hotel/cottage/B&B establishements.  We stayed at Kindred Spirits Cottages.   There were seven of us sharing a 3 bedroom cottage.  It was great.  There was enough room for everyone to spread out a bit, a nice deck and our own private hot tub.  
  • Stop for lunch at a small cafe. We stopped at the Landmark Cafe in Victoria, PEI.  The menu is very interesting and everyone enjoyed their meals. While we just happened upon the cafe we discovered it has been recommended in “Where to Eat in Canada:.  Across the street is the local playhouse.

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  • Buy your seafood from an outlet on the wharf and cook your own very fresh lobster and mussels.  Our hosts at Kindred Spirits Cottages put a lobster pot on our back deck.  

    One of our in-house chefs
    Garth, one of our in-house chefs
  • Invite your friends, born and bred talented islanders over for dinner/.  Hope he brings his guitar.  Sit back and reflect on the entire experience and how it fills up your soul.
We were delighted Fred brought his guitar
We were delighted Fred brought his guitar and his voice

Have you been to PEI?  If so, what were the highlights of your visit.  If not, what would you like to see?

Prince Edward County, Ontario

We just returned from a delightful weekend with our friends in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  We stayed at a relatively new Bed and Breakfast, The Manse, in Picton.  

The Manse B&B
The Manse B&B
Outside The Manse
Outside The Manse

We would all highly recommend the B&B, its amenities and our friendly hosts Kathleen and Chris.  Prince Edward County is becoming well-known as a wine growing region.  

Closson Chase Winery
Closson Chase Winery
Closson Chase-another view
Closson Chase-another view

We had a good long walk in Sandbanks Park, visited some of the wineries, enjoyed delicious meals and the great company of dear friends.

Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Mother Nature's art in the sand
Mother Nature’s art in the sand

No Vacancy There But Delightful Stay Here

I just returned from St. John’s Newfoundland.  Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s easternmost province.  Its strength and beauty lies in the people who live there.  They are friendly, down to earth, full of good humour and proud of their heritage.  The province’s economy is on an upswing and downtown St. John’s (capital of the province) shows evidence of the boom.  

I was attending a conference in St. John’s and was tardy in booking a hotel room.  By the time I made inquiries the rooms were all taken.  I found accommodation at At Wit’s Inn, a very comfortable Bed and Breakfast (B&B) a 20 minute walk from the conference hotel.  In the end, I am happy to have stayed somewhere unique, quiet and clean, where you are very comfortable and at the same time supporting a small family business.  There are 3 rooms in the B&B.  I’d stay there again.

Have you ever found a no vacancy sign and then found alternate accommodation and felt you got the better end of the deal?

Here are some pictures:

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