Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sewing with a Syrian Refugee

Oh, I just can't help myself. I've got to tell you a bit about my few hours sewing with Rezan, one third of Mahone Bay's Syrian refugee family. I was a little worried about communication because they just arrived here in September and they are just beginning to learn English. But it really wasn't a problem. Sometimes he didn't understand me, but it was never something that needed to be understood. For someone with very few words, he told a lot of stories.
It was funny because he has been here so short a time that everything he notices becomes his experience of Canada. For example, "In Canada, sewing machines small." (he's used to sewing on industrial machines.) I'm afraid I have now added, in Canada scissors are dull to his observations.
He told me how in Turkey (where they have been for the past four years) that the president didn't like the Kurds, but the people were good. (Man, that goes for so many places)

He asked if I liked Trump. I said, no. He laughed and he said, No Canada like Trump. Teacher (his English teacher) ask 8 (the eight students) Like Trump? No like, No like, No like...She ask, Rezan, like Trump? I say, Yes, like Trump. And he laughed again. Everyone say, Rezan bad. More laughing. I get this man. He's enjoying messing with their minds.
But he also told me, Muslim no (pantomimed slitting throat) Muslim no (pantomimed shooting) Muslim no (pantomimed explosion) Alkaida bad, no Muslim. I know, I said, I know.....
I said, Istanbul big city. Damascus, big city. Mahone Bay, small town. You like? Yes, he said. I like Mahone Bay, but I like work.
He's been sewing for someone else in Mahone Bay, but the work is sporadic. I had to break it to him that it's the same for me. So hard, I wish I could keep him busy, but there's no guarantee. Must be difficult to be idle when you are a worker by nature. I tried to explain that this is how so many people make a living in rural Nova Scotia. Lots of little jobs.
Oh, the label. Why the picture of the label? He called it, Made in Anna, although he pronounced it, Mad in Anna. I sent him home with a few hat bodies to sew and I had forgotten to give him the labels. He said, Excuse me..Mad in Anna? I ran and got the labels and his eyes twinkled with laughter. He's a keeper.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Drive Me Crazy. Happy 14th Anniversary.

"You drive me crazy, with all the things you do and do not do.  But, I love you so much, Baby, I'm going to drive you crazy, too."  Greg Brown

This photo is from mine and Tony's wedding day, August 23rd. 2002.  Yes, we also have photos of adoring stares and passionate kisses, but this one's my favourite.

At some point in 2001, I remember confessing to my dear friend, Anna Vojtech, that I had thought many times that I should really be with Tony, but I knew we couldn't possibly be compatible because he didn't recycle. Anna is a few wisdom years ahead of me and I remember how she laughed and assured me that people could overcome much worse hardships. Well, it's true.  She was right.  Now in 2016, I'm proud to say that Tony is a very enthusiastic recycler.  He recycles absolutely everything, whether it's recyclable or not.  Styrofoam, candy wrappers, dirty tissues, you name it, it goes into the recycling bin. It makes my sorting job a bit tricky, but he's worth it.

We eloped.  I really wouldn't have had it any other way. We invited one friend each.  Tony's mom, one of the greatest women to have ever walked this earth, crashed the wedding.  It was a truly wonderful day and it was uniquely us.  Our plan was to get married at Gloucester City Hall, but when we arrived, there was an unexpected council meeting and we had to think of a plan B.   We walked over to Fitz Hugh Lane Park.  There were several homeless people hanging out in the park and they were all quite keen to witness a wedding.  And so it was that we got married in the park, with cheers from its residents,  overlooking a city that was near and dear to both our hearts.  The name of the man who married us was Bob Whynot.

Walking through life with another is challenging, to say the least.  We do regularly drive each other to distraction, but mostly, we hold each other up, make each other laugh and best of all, he makes me coffee in the morning.    Fourteen years later, I'm still smitten and as lucky as lucky can be.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Littlest Flower Farm

It was many moons ago when I first discovered that farmers markets were my favourite places to be. It's not just that they are filled with local produce, baked goods and crafts, but, when done well, they are the hub of a community. They are also hot beds of entrepreneurship and local business.  As much as I don't love to pack up my studio, load the car,  wake up early and haul boxes into an empty arena to set up the show, I do love knowing that every vendor in the space is in the exact same boat as I am.  Just regular, hard working people making an honest living with their hands. Having been at this racket for over 20 years now, I feel extra warm and fuzzy when I see a young person (Boy, does that make me sound old) with a great vision, trying to get a new business off the ground.  In this case, it's into the ground.  Meet Alicia Steeves, the master mind behind Littlest Flower Farm.

(If you noticed the little spelling mistake don't say anything.)  Alicia sells bouquets and also individual flowers by the stem.  Her flowers are like a Victorian romance explosion.  Everything is just so soft and sweet and muted. I don't know what draws me to this sensibility so much.  Maybe it balances my Kamikaze, mad as a hatter personality. I just look at her flowers and the world instantly becomes a gentler place.

When I asked to take Alicia's photo, she told me that she only slept an hour and a half last night.  Clearly her lack of sleep has not affected her beauty, but it is note worthy in that running a business is really hard work and people need to understand that if we want to see new businesses succeed we have to make an extra effort to support them.

 The littlest flower farm doesn't yet have a regular spot at the Lunenburg market, but she will be there a couple more weeks for sure during the summer and probably more if space becomes available.  But in the mean time, she does make bouquets for weddings and restaurants and anyone else needing a gentle reminder that life is actually beautiful when you choose to look at flowers.  You can find The Littlest Flower Farm on Instagram @littlestflowerfarm and on Facebook also at Littlest Flower Farm.  You can e-mail Alicia at

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What Doesn't Kill You makes you Happier

You know what they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  This past year I went through something of a struggle.  On the outside it was the story of a woman fighting red tape in Nova Scotia, but on the inside the struggle was more complicated and personal.  I'm happy to say that it all ended very well, but it's taken some time for the reset button to work.

This past month I have been acutely aware of how happy I am.  Happiness shows up brighter when contrasted by sadness. It's funny to say that the dark side of my experience has turned out to be a gift, but I think it has. Every day feels precious right now. I realize I sound like a positive affirmation, but life feels glorious and I'm just so grateful to be in this beautiful corner of the earth. I have been watching carefully to see if that old adage, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, is true.  The verdict is not out yet, but what I can tell you is, what doesn't kill you makes you happier.

I took these pictures on today's bike ride to Second Peninsula, a short ride from Lunenburg.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Playing Hat Hooky - A Ride to Corkum's Island

When you have a sixty hat wholesale order to ship out in two days and you still need to make ten, label them, write an invoice and box them up, there is only one thing to do...go for a bike ride. I just really don't have the personality for missing out on summer.

Today I hopped on my bike, followed the harbour out of town and went to Corkum's Island. I'll never get over the beauty of this place.

On one side of the road you have the ocean and on the other side of the road you have the woods.  It's a truly amazing scent cocktail. 

I have been on my bike a lot lately.  last year I let summer get away from me and I really can't do that again.  This year I'm making up for lost time. Being alone on these little jaunts, I tend to talk to myself.  I seem to say, "unbelievable" a lot.  The beauty is simply unbelievable.

I also seem to say, "No F-ing way." quite a bit There's no way to avoid the hills.  To get from point A to point B there's constant up and down.

But there's always a reward at the top. This is the million dollar view of Lunenburg from the  Golf course.
 As I was standing at the side of the road taking this photo, there were a few tourists doing the same. I was tempted to tell them that I actually live here and I have been taking this same photo for eight years.  It never gets old.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When I'm not Making Hats....

There are certain times of the year when life feels perfect.  This seems to be one of them.  Hope you come visit this summer. This photo was taken on Second Peninsula, which is about 2km. from the town of Lunenburg.  Follow this glorious road to the end and you come to a beautiful little beach. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Affordable Studio Space With a View

No, I am not becoming a realtor on the side and I have no plans to move out of my beautiful home-based business.  I just happened to be taking my morning walk when Lego saw a young woman doing some construction on Lincoln st and he insisted that there would be no moving forward until we said hello.  Then she asked if I was "that hat lady" and since she looked friendly enough I admitted that I was.  She explained that she was fixing up some office/studio space so that it could be rented out and would I like to come take a look.  Lego said yes and I just followed him up the stairs.

Well, upstairs happens to be pretty damn nice.  It's above The Elephant Trading Co. on Lincoln st. There are five available rooms and they range between $200-$300 plus shared utilities.   You really can't beat that.  Of course when I look at the space I see artist co-op, but these would make great office spaces, too.  The right creative person could organize a co-working space.  The possibilities are endless.  Sort of.

 All the rooms have a lot of natural light.

I don't think I have ever seen a bad view in Lunenburg.

Really, the rooms are nice. 

There's a shared kitchen and two bathrooms. If you are interested in renting one of these rooms or if you want to be a visionary, rent the whole space and pick and choose your studio/office mates, give a call to 902-634-1100.  It's a pretty sweet deal.