March 2007

This morning I dragged myself out of bed before the sun came up, and made my way to the local CBC radio building to participate in the live audience on a special forum. (Thanks to my super fella who drove me there at 6 a.m.! It’s only a 5 minute drive but still!) Local media including the CBC radio morning show host have recently been making a particular comment that made me mad and so when I heard they were holding this forum, I had to go. I sent an e-mail to the show and got myself invited to be in the audience. There would be guest panelists and then questions & comments taken from the audience.

What these local media have been repeating is this tired old mantra: “Barrington is dead”. That is Barrington Street, the main street in downtown Halifax and the location of my business. When one or two businesses close, people freak out and act as though we are entering the Great Depression and the main street is skid row. People say “thirty years ago it was so much nicer”. But they seem incapable of grasping that the street and the downtown are so much better than they were ten or five years ago.

Hurrican Juan

This is what some people would have you think Barrington is like. But this was the day after Hurricane Juan!

Meanwhile, tons of new businesses like ours have been opening in the past couple of years in this area. We have lots of loyal customers who are from Halifax, and many from other provinces who come to see us whenever they are in town. Is it ever frustrating to hear the negative Eeyores (I guess that’s redundant) moaning about how it’s not the same as it was. The local paper, The Daily News, ran a front-page article to this effect last week. Then a few days later CBC radio did the same thing.

But then the CBC announced this forum called “Winners or Whiners: How much change is Halifax willing to embrace?”. I won’t bore you with a lot of detail about the chronic ‘debate’ in Halifax about preserving our heritage vs. encouraging new development. But you could say it’s been a fairly polarized debate. So today I got to take part and have my say on the radio, reminding the millions of listeners to the show that there are a lot of positive things happening downtown. Let’s quit being so negative, pay attention to what is really happening and encourage people to come downtown, rather than scaring them away with false tales of sordid evil and broken glass.

Many interesting comments were made by participants – some silly and some wise. One newspaper columnist had some funny and scathing comments about how Halifax is fascinated with the past, like the time the city blew up, or the wars … Halifax has a history of “sleeping between the wars”. The one comment that stuck with me most – stuck in my craw, you might say – was the invited cultural panel member who is a poet and writer. After agreeing that one of the great barriers to change is the lack of leadership, she said this: “I’m an artist and a writer, I’m too busy to be a leader.” Too busy to be a leader! If it wasn’t such an idiotic comment, it would be hilarious. Too busy writing poetry to be a leader! So who would she expect to be leaders, people who have nothing else to do with their time?

Also after the hurricane

This was also taken the day after the hurricane … okay, so I don’t take a lot of photos downtown!

Anyway this is probably too long and boring. But I’ve gotten worked up about this and I’m resolved to be vocally and persistently positive about downtown Halifax. This past year I was on the board of my condo (good times!) but after that term ends I think I will devote my time to volunteering with the Downtown Halifax Biz Commission and related activities. My goal: To help start changing the public perception of Barrington St., from myth to reality.

One interesting observation I made at the forum today: The people like me who get frustrated at the whiners mostly seem to be “from away”, i.e. moved here from other places.

Ironic note?: As I’m writing this, I’m watching late-night CBC TV, a documentary about: The Halifax Explosion! I’m fascinated with Halifax history because it is alive, it is visible in a way that you don’t see in Toronto. But it’s time for the city to mix more innovation and exciting development in with that history.


This is in reference to the post below: I’m signing up for the Knitters Treat Exchange. To do so, I need to complete this questionnaire and post it here. Very exciting …

1. What’s your favourite type of yarn?

Lately I’ve been getting more interested in finer yarns like lace-weight or DK weight. Natural fibres, and I like yarns with cotton, linen or silk. Hand-dyed is always nice.

2. What’s your least favourite type of yarn?

Fuzzy or shiny novelty yarns, anything that’s overly synthetic. I’m not crazy about really bulky yarn.

3. What’s the first thing you do when you visit a new yarn shop?

Hmm I never seem to visit new yarn shops anymore since I opened my own business… I can’t remember. It’s always important to see what is unique to the area, whether it’s yarn or other handicrafts or knitting tools & notions.

4. What other crafts do you do / would like to do?

I have done embroidery for a long time, for over 15 years. More recently I’ve started making fused glass jewelry.

5. What magazines do you currently subscribe to?

Cycle Canada, a motorcycle magazine, but I’m letting my subscription lapse. I find I don’t have time to read it much anymore, plus it doesn’t seem as interesting as it used to be. I do read each issue of Interweave Knits and Knitter’s, and some Vogue Knitting.

6. Put this type of magazine in order of preference:
1. Knitting

2. Celebrity Gossip (my dirty little secret …. Sometimes I “read” these, it’s like brain junk food.

Crochet / Other Craft / Food / Home / Fashion / Garden – None of these other ones interest me at all.

7. What items do you like to knit / crochet?

This year I want to make lots of socks! And I want to get better at knitting lace. I like to make scarves that are relatively quick but that have design elements that make them not too boring.

8. Are you allergic to anything?

Nope – at least not that I’ve discovered yet.

9. What do you like to* smell of?
(*This is not a typo. The question is: What do you like to smell of)

Umm lately I use a lavender eau de cologne, and generally I like fresh fragrances like citrus. I discovered Lush only last year, thanks to my Dad picking up a gift for me at an airport … now I’m hooked.

10. What’s your favourite way to relax?

A cup of tea and some good cookies while reading, or watching a movie, knitting at the same time. Going for a scenic ride on my motorcycle. I’ve just taken up running starting this past winter, and it’s almost starting to feel like a way to relax!

11. You’re stood in front of a Victorian style sweetshop, an Italian cafe, an old fashioned bakery and a dainty tea room. Where do you go first?

Probably the sweetshop though I’m not quite sure what a Victorian style sweet shop is. But I bet I would find things I like.

12. What do you come out with?

I would come out with Victorian sweets! Whatever they are. Hopefully chocolate that isn’t overly sugary … did they enjoy dark chocolate in Victoria’s day?


13. Where do you go next?

Then I would go to the Italian café because I like good coffee, and the café is probably designed for lingering.

14. Any other words of wisdom for your pal?

While my favourite colour is green, this past year I have found myself drawn to the many varieties of grey in nice yarns. Blues are nice too, and blues and greens together make me extra happy. I don’t take baths because I don’t have a nice bathtub, so bath things aren’t that useful to me, but I love nice soap.

I know that some of you reading this are knitters, though you are probably the minority. Since around the time we opened The Loop, I’ve been aware of the shady, nebulous world of … well, it’s something I’m not even sure what to call. Through the magic of the Internet, knitters have secret penpals. But they don’t write letters (like I did in Grade 6 to a girl in Alberta, or later to a couple of penpals in Sri Lanka). They send each other lovely knitting-related stuff. I’ve vaguely wanted to know more about this, but being busy and not so internet-blog-world savvy, I haven’t learned more.

But recently while lurking on a friend’s blog, I learned about the perfect opportunity. It’s called the Knitters Treat Exchange and here’s how it works. You sign up and fill out a questionnaire, as far as I can tell it’s that easy. The people facilitating it will match you up with someone else, and you send each other a package of treats. That’s it. They seem to anticipate this being an international venture. It’s like getting free stuff, except of course you send something to someone else so they are getting free stuff too!

If you aren’t a knitter this probably sounds pretty weird, but as far as I can tell there is a lot of collegiality and community feeling out there in the ether among knitters. So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

One of the conditions is I have to fill out a questionnaire, so my secret sender knows things about me. So bear with me because that will be my next post!

And on a completely different note … it feels like spring is in the air. Fingers crossed, maybe I will be able to get my bike out of storage next weekend?? I haven’t ridden it in March since I moved to Nova Scotia. When I was in Toronto, I took pride in always getting my bike on the road before the end of March, so it would be great if I can do that here. I can’t wait to have the freedom of my vehicle again.

Today I went out in my rubber boots, and it reminded me that one of the things I love about Halifax is that adults go out in public wearing rubber boots all the time, as a matter of course.

You see, last night we had a storm, the one that came with hours and hours of hyped up weather warnings. First snow, then freezing rain, followed by rain. On all the news casts, people had the annoying habit of acting surprised that we were having a complex, messy storm in Nova Scotia in March. I lit a candle, anticipating a power outage, but to my surprise that didn’t happen! Last night when I went to bed (actually it was well into this morning when I went to bed), this is what my bedroom window looked like.

That isn’t water, it’s ice. A solid thick coating of ice. I knew the window would be sealed shut, so I had to try just to prove it to myself. That was as exciting as it got.

Here’s a closer, rather impressionistic view.

When I got up later this morning, the world had that slick coating on everything, so I postponed my morning run (until tomorrow). I’ve had the great fortune of having two days in a row “off”, meaning I didn’t have to go to the store to work. I had lots of other work to do at home, including finish up one of my consulting contracts.

Still I love the rare feeling of not having to go anywhere for anything. Later on I ventured as far as the corner store for some essentials (milk, DVD). And rubber boots were just the right footwear. I think I like wearing the rubber boots because it reminds me of being a kid, exploring the swamp (er, wetland) beside our farmhouse. Plus when you are walking around the city streets wearing rubber boots, you are sending a strong message to the world that you possess the confidence to not care what people think about your footwear.

Of course, it is still possible to be consciously fashionable with your rubber boots, since many cute coloured or flowered boots are available. But I’m pleased with my tall brown rubber boots that I bought at a fishing supply store in Digby, Nova Scotia.

Quite a while ago, I had posted a note and a photo about a small shawl I was knitting for Gwladys, the 91-year-old blind woman I go read to once a week. Here are a couple of finished photos:

It’s made from a wool and angora blend that is hand-dyed here in Nova Scotia. It’s ridiculolus how soft and airy it is, yet warm. The pattern is an extremely simple lace pattern that I adapted from a stitch pattern in Barbara Walker’s treasury of stitch patterns (for the knitters out there) … I forget which volume. I found it to be a somewhat meditative project to work on, in part because of the beautiful feel of the yarn. Here is another shot that shows the pattern a little more clearly:

Gwladys spends most of her time in bed, with the exception of meals. So I intended that this would be just a nice cozy, comforting thing for her to wear around her room and in bed. When I brought it to her, she seemed very pleased. She isn’t that strong but she is very independent. She tied it around her neck and while we were talking she kept rubbing her chin into the soft angora fabric, with a little smile on her face.

Now a couple of weeks have gone by and I haven’t been allowed to visit, because the place she lives has been closed to visitors because of a virus. I hope I’ll get to see her soon because she is extremely frail, and I truly wonder if each visit might be the last time I see her. I don’t mean to sound morbid, that’s just a fact. Her memory isn’t that great so lately, I have been choosing sections of one of the books she wrote and reading those to her. They include descriptions of her childhood in Wales, and of her adventures as a military nurse in the second world war. She served in Northern Africa … with a slight detour on the way there because the ship she was being transported on was sunk by a U-boat in the mediterranean. Later she served in Italy, where she met her husband-to-be, a doctor from Nova Scotia. She gets such a kick out of hearing those stories again now, so I hope I’ll be able to see her later this week. And I get a kick out of seeing her enjoying it.

Welcome to this new version of my blog … for various reasons I’ve moved over to WordPress. It seems more user friendly in various ways. I had started my Vivero Glass blog here, and decided to move this one.

In honour of the move, I’m posting a mysterious old photo.happy holidays

This photo came from an album that belonged to my great-aunt Florence. I never knew her. She died when I was quite young, and I barely remember her. At my grandfather’s funeral, family gathered and went through a lot of old photo albums including Flo’s. I was in my early twenties then. I could guess that great-aunt Flo had a pretty adventurous life, based on the photos showing some interesting road trips. She didn’t live a traditional get-married-and-settle-down kind of life, which makes me wish I’d been able to know more about her. ‘Cause I can identify with that, but she was doing it when it was more unusual to be an independent kind of woman.

This photo is from Manitoba, the year 1958 according to the imprint on the photo. The spirit of Christmas?

After Grampa’s funeral, cousins and other relatives split up the photos, so I got a few interesting ones that make me wonder about the stories behind them. I found this one in the box of old stuff I found a while ago.

I can run for ten minutes without stopping, as of tonight. I’m sure for some of you that would be no big deal, but for me it feels like an accomplishment. I’m taking a running clinic at The Running Room in Halifax, it’s the beginner level clinic. Before I started, I’m sure I might have been able to run for one minute without stopping – if something scary was chasing me. But no more, and it would have been painful. Well in tonight’s class we ran for ten minutes without stopping, walked for one minute, then ran for another ten. By the end of the second ten I really wanted to stop, and I couldn’t talk anymore, but I did it.

My group is small – only four people plus the instructor. The four of us are all biologists, and three of the four are named Catherine (Catherine, Cathy and Katie). Weird eh! The other three are students so they are 15 years or so younger than me… and none of them are overweight whereas I am … so I feel pretty pleased with myself for keeping up.

Hey Marni! You know you definitely helped inspire me to do this. Here’s hoping I keep with it.

Two more weeks, and we’ll compete in a 5K run. Now I’m thinking I should keep up the momentum and go for the 10K clinic after this one … I have no good photo so I will plug the shoes that I feel made this possible for me, MBTs. (I can’t get a better photo.)