Thursday, August 30, 2018

Twenty-Two Years

That summer day, in 1996, was wet, dark, grey.

There was the possibility that we wouldn't stop. I had no desire to get soaked, only to load back into our 1980 Datsun 200SX, and make our way, wet and miserable, on to Nova Scotia.

Our first wedding anniversary had been a bust. I was coping with strep throat, had barely any energy to celebrate. Thankfully, we hadn't made any travel plans, and I sufferd at home.

It wasn't quite our second anniversary on this day. We were still a few days away, when we planned to be in Prince Edward Island. But I didn't want to remember our trip to Hopewell Rocks to be a soggy, dismal one. Though it wasn't yet our anniversary day, it was part of our anniversary trip.

As luck would have it, much like on our actual wedding day, the torrential rain stopped at the right moment. Though the sky was still grey, we decided that we would make our way down to the base of the rocks. We weren't at the lowest tide, but we could still access a good part of the shore. But with the ample rain, the mud made wandering too far afield to be less than desirable, even though we had hiking boots.

I remember the stop to be short. The rain threatened to return at any moment, and I didn't want to ascend back to the car on a soaked path.

Back to the car, back into dry, clean shoes, back on the road. I felt that I had seen this well-known, east-coast landmark, but that I couldn't completely check my internal box that says been there, seen that.

Twenty-two years later, the sun shone, the weather warm and agreeable. This time, with kids in toe, more than six weeks after our 24th anniversary, we made two trips to the rocks. The first, at high tide, where kayakers paddled among the tiny islands; the second, after low tide, where we could take our time and wander the entire coastline. An hour before sunset, the shadows in the rocks' recesses were more defined, the silhouettes stark.

We left feeling redeemed from our last visit. The Canadian must-see spot fully checked off my list.

I'll share more Hopewell Rocks photos when I return from vacation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


The folks who live next to our rental cottage, east of Shediac, New Brunswick, have several hummingbird feeders at the back of their home. On our second day at the cottage, after having enjoyed the afternoon at Parlee Beach, returned to see two hummingbirds in what appeared to be a conflict.

It seemed as though these birds were possessive of the feeders and didn't like to share. After some time, one of the birds succeeded in scaring off the other.

But that bird didn't just want to keep the other hummingbird from the feeder. I noticed a bumblebee slowly buzzing around a feeder near a planter box. The dominant hummingbird was quick to shoo it away (so quickly that I couldn't move fast enough to capture the bee).

Who knew that these tiny birds were so territorial?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Laying Low

I'm still on vacation, and that means the last thing I want to worry about is work. Or about how my backyard fence, back home, is falling apart.

Or, whether I get a blog post out this week.

In the nine days since my family and I left home and headed out east, I have looked at a computer screen twice. That doesn't include my smartphone, of course, but I would never write from such a small screen.

I've sort of liked not having to think about much beyond where we are going for the day, how we're going to keep the kids occupied where we're at, and what we were going to eat while at that place. And, in keeping with that frame of mind, I'm not going to worry about blogging for the rest of the week. If I don't feel like writing, I won't.

That's not to say I won't have anything this week. I'm setting up a bunch of photos from our trip, which I'll share each day. But if I feel inspired to write something, and if I have the time, I will.

I'll hopefully have more to say, next week, when the family and I return to Ottawa.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

At The Crack of Dawn

I was doubtful, at first.

What I wanted was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I was determined to make it happen, no matter what. Even if it meant that I was to do it alone.

But DW was all in. Our initial plan was to leave with enough time to drive from our rental cottage, in Western Shore of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, to Peggy's Cove, an hour away, and arrive before sunrise. If we timed it right and if the weather cooperated, we could capture some stunning photos before the throngs of tourists arrived.

We'd take our photos and drive back to the cottage before the kids woke up, not even knowing that we had been gone.

To do this, we would have to wake up at 4:30 and be on the road by 5. If no traffic or construction slowed us down, we would be at the lighthouse by 6, with about a half hour to spare, to take pre-dawn photos and find the best angle to catch sunrise.

I knew I could push myself to get out the door but I didn't want to drive in the dark, alone. DW didn't like the thought of getting up that early, but the sun wasn't going to wait for us. She agreed that she would get going.

When the kids learned of our plan, they expressed an interest to come along. I told them how early they'd have to wake up, but still they wanted to come. "Alright," I said, "but if you move slowly, I'll leave without you." Literally, if you snooze, you lose.

At 4:15, my alarm gently stirred me. I checked the weather forecast: clear skies at Peggy's Cove. I suspected that we'd get a bit of fog, but what did I know about maritime mornings? I nudged DW and told her I would check on the kids.

They moved a bit slowly, but made progress. We dressed and packed the car for our day (we would be continuing on to Halifax, rather than returning to the cottage).

Before we piled into the vehicle, I looked up at the sky. There were so many stars that I wondered how it could still be so dark. As I was about to lower my gaze, a meteor streaked across the sky.

I wished that the morning would go without a hitch.

With no traffic to speak of, we made good time. Though the sun was still a half-hour away, the village was well-illuminated. I could see three people wandering the rocks around the point, all with cameras. They stood well back from the lighthouse, leaving a clear view.


Shortly after we arrived, DW and the kids began to shiver, even though they wore sweaters. They said that they would warm up in our SUV, but that I could take my time.

As sunrise approached, some clouds gathered on the horizon, providing a wall that would make the sun climb higher before it could be seen, but that was okay. A clear sky at sunrise, or sunset, is pretty boring, in my opinion.

As I walked around the lighthouse, shooting from several angles, I could see more vehicles approaching. It was time for me to move toward the village, shooting buildings and boats.

By the time I started to feel the cooled air, we had been there for nearly an hour, and already several people were right up to the lighthouse, making a clear shot next to impossible. We buckled up and made our way to Halifax.

I'm pretty sure that this was my last trip to Peggy's Cove. I'm certain that it's my last time being there at the crack of dawn.

It was totally worth it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It's That Time of the Year

Summer is waning. Days are shortening. But with any luck, the weather will cooperate with warm days, cool evenings, and clear skies.

Today marks the fourth day of my vacation, which both DW and I have asserted that we need so desperately. To get away from the daily grind, from what is familiar and repetitive. We've packed up the kids, loaded the SUV, and headed east.

(I wrote this post a few days before we left Ottawa, so I can only assume that things have gone according to plan.)

The first day of our vacation was a jaunt to Lévis (pronounced lay-vee for my non-French friends), which was a quick stop over and a relatively short drive for our ultimate destination. Our plan was to arrive shortly after lunch, take the ferry across to Québec City, where we'd wander the old streets, perhaps shop, have dinner, and then cross back to our hotel at a decent time so that we (mostly, I) could get a good night's rest.

Sunday was all about driving.

It's a 10-and-a-half-hour drive from Lévis to Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and if we had any hope of arriving by dinner, we'd have to leave early, take as few stops as possible (just a quick lunch in Fredericton, New Brunswick), and push the speed limits.

I assume we did and made it, safe and sound, to our Airbnb cottage, near Lunenburg. It won't be until Thursday that I'll have a blog post that was written, since arriving.

Hopewell Rocks, 1996
Five days here, then back to New Brunswick, for a day around the Hopewell Rocks Park, and then five days in the Shediac-Beaubassin area, before we work our way back home. Depending on how the family feels, we'll either drive straight home or we'll take our time, finding places to stay along the way.

It's the first time our kids have been to Nova Scotia and these parts of New Brunswick. DW and I were last in Nova Scotia in 1996, where we travelled through this maritime province, as well as New Brunswick and PEI, for our second anniversary. It was one of our best wedding anniversaries (our first few, odd-numbered anniversaries were a bit of a bust: the even-numbered ones were better).

I'll continue to keep in touch, through Twitter and Instagram.

Enjoy the rest of your August!

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Next BKPW

I've known for years that when people sign up for an event, not everyone actually shows up. And that's okay.

At my last photo walk, in June, the event quickly filled up. Not that that was difficult: I only opened 12 spots for this free event. But when people signed up so quickly for it, I was encouraged to expand the number of participants to 16, and those spots were quickly taken.

Of course, only about half of those people showed up, and we had a great time. If you're interested in seeing the photos from that Brown Knowser Photo Walk, among others, the link is here.

But what was most encouraging was that people who wanted to attend the last photo walk, but couldn't make it (not those who signed up, but those who knew about the event but had other commitments) said that they would attend the next one.

Well, folks, the next one is coming soon.

On Friday, September 21, let's meet at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill at 6:00 pm and do a short lap.

What I propose is a wander from the flame, west, down Wellington Street, with stops of the Supreme Court building, the Library and Archives, and places in between. We'll then head down to the river, with a stop at Richmond Landing and the Royal Canadian Navy Monument, and take the path under the Parliament buildings to the Rideau Canal, and finally up the locks, back up to Wellington Street, and past the East Block to the Centennial Flame.

With luck, we'll be atop Dufferin Bridge, looking down at the canal, for sunset (around 7:00). With even more luck, the sunset will be spectacular.

Are you in?

As I said, this is a free event but you must register (so that I know how many people to expect). To sign up, go to my Eventbrite site. The circuit should take an hour or so to complete, and we can hang around the Hill to catch the Peace Tower during the blue hour, after the sun has set.

I hope to see you then!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Beer O'Clock: Cracking Open a Conspiracy Theory (or Two)

If you're to believe the rumours, Barrhaven is home to one of the city's smallest breweries.

Or maybe, it's a coverup.

Whatever you choose to believe, home brewer and owner Paul Card, of Conspiracy Theory Brewing Company, has taken his love of the craft and decided to increase production to 240 litres at a time—roughly 900 to 1,000 litres each month.

All of this is done in his garage, a stone's throw away from the Minto Recreation Complex (and around the corner from one of my friends' house), in Half Moon Bay.

Hidden, in plain sight. But now, it's time to get the word out. Because the truth is out there (or, at least in the can).
Brewer/owner Paul Card

I visited Paul as he was about to make a new batch of brew and he let me sample four beers that he had, ready to go. He was kind enough to take some time to explain his work and share his hopes for opening a brew pub in Barrhaven.

His beer varies from a mild blonde (Staged Landing) to a hoppy session IPA (Project MK/Ultra). Neither were available, when I was there, which made me suspicious...  He showed me his Belgium wheat ale (Grassy Knoll), which is suspiciously similar to the Molson-Coors/Miller Coors/Rickard's Belgian Moon/Blue Moon/White, a coriander-citrus ale that I predict will be a hit with mainstream beer drinkers.

Area51 Cream Ale is a smooth, creamy brew and New World Order is a hoppy, palate-cleansing ale. None of Paul's brews pushes the IBUs, and that's okay because there is a lot of flavour to spare.

I walked away with all four of his current offerings and decided that I would focus, for this review, on the can that had a full label (because, that's what they want you to do), the Chemtrails American Pale Ale. (Psst... Paul, your label has an S at the end of the name but your Web site doesn't. What are you hiding??)
Chemtrails APA (5.8% ABV)
Conspiracy Theory Brewing Co.
Ottawa (Barrhaven, Nepean) ON
Appearance: a clear copper-amber with a foamy beige head that settles to a firm cap. From above, it doesn't want you to see what's underneath.

Nose: I let my glass sit for about 5 to 10 minutes after I poured it, to give the ale a chance to settle before the interrogation... I mean, review. When I placed my nose in my glass, the aromas were somewhat closed, not giving much up beyond a glimpse that something was hidden and needed to be brought out in the open. But in the end, it revealed traces of malt and a touch of wet straw.

Palate: (Psst... Paul, your site misspells this word in New World Order.) this ale wants you to believe it's something else, with malt and caramel greeting you with a rush, as though to say, "There's nothing to see here, folks." But the hops linger, in the background, and like a Magic-Eye illusion, become more apparent in the finish.

Overall impression: this is not your average APA but the flavours are solid and Chemtrails goes down well. It's a good ale to sip while you're sitting with friends, sharing stories—conspiracy theories or otherwise.

Beer O'Clock rating: 🍺🍺 This is a good ale but is not quite what comes to my mind when I think APA. Maybe, those chemical and biological chemicals that those planes are spraying are finally getting to me.

Paul's beer is available at his brewery and periodically on tap at Greenfield's Gastro Public House, in the Barrhaven Mall.

Also, if you're in the Half Moon Bay area (south Greenbank Road) this Saturday, August 18, Conspiracy Theory will be at the Half Moon Bay Community Block Party, in Guinness Park (coincidence?), from 10 to 3. Come out and support a great new brewery.