Posted by: mindyourknitting | July 23, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation (An essay in words and pictures)

  Gah, I can’t fix the formatting of the first two paragraphs, so unfortunately you get it as is.  And this might be the longest blog post in history…
There’s nothing like failing to post anything for several days to make your blog traffic wither and die.  So apologies, loyal readersreader, for the absence, but I have been vacationing with only my iPhone to keep me connected to the www, and if anyone has ever tried typing on that thing you know that tapping out a blog post on the tiny keyboard  would be crazy-making.  But we’ve returned, more or less in one piece, are now “back west” as one Maritimer put it to a very confused me, and I have many pretty pictures and some stories of our travels to share.  (We’ve actually been back for a few days, and have celebrated Abigail’s first birthday during that time, but that’s for a  
 later post).  And I’m sitting down with a glass of wine right now, determined to finish this and post it tonight. 
Less than a week before we left for “down east,” Erik and I were trying to figure out what to do with the two weeks he had off work this summer.  After we overcame the impulse to farm the baby out to her various grandparents and sleep for a a week straight, we considered our slim options.  My dad’s parents built a cottage some forty-odd years ago on Heather Beach in Nova Scotia, and my dad and his family spent a lot of time there growing up, but I had only been once when I was a teenager.  For some reason it had never occurred to me to ask to use the cottage, but when my dad suggested it, it was perfect.  My paternal grandparents were not only happy to let us have the cottage for a week, but looked forward to meeting their oldest great-grandchild for the first time.  We don’t see much of my dad’s family because they live so far away (unlike my family, which practically lives in my back pocket), so this was a definite bonus to the trip.  I packed everything I could think of in the back of our station wagon (I knew getting a soccer mommobile would come in handy eventually!  And for the record we used almost everything I brought, ha!), we did Abigail’s bedtime routine last Thursday night, popped her in her carseat, crossed our fingers, and set off.  The drive was amazingly uneventful, and the baby was, if I dare say it, an angel.   We drove there and back at night which was tiring, but Abigail slept most of the way and we dealt with no traffic, so it was totally worth it.  A stop for pancakes at the Blue Canoe restaurant somewhere near Gagetown (all the fellas in uniform tipped  me off to our location) helped matters enormously when we were a couple of hours from our destination and universally tired and cranky.  Okay, it helped matters for Erik and I…Abigail was just glad to be out of that damned carseat for a bit.
Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

We tucked her into her carseat with all the accoutrement she usually has in her crib (Sleep Sheep that makes soothing rainshower sounds; her blankie; the stuffed giraffe her dad got her) but I’m pretty sure she could tell the difference.

(n.b. You’ll notice that the quality of the pictures get better the later in the trip it was – I read the user manual to my new camera – I heart you, Nikon D60 –  on the drive, but much of it is in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics so that’s challenging.  But I did realize that the manual focus wasn’t working out so well because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I flipped the little switch to “autofocus” and shockingly my photography skills improved immediately.)

Our first stop when we arrived in Nova Scotia on Friday morning was my grandparents house in Amherst (the “h” is silent, a fact that Erik could not get his head around, so the entire trip I had to listen to him refer to “Am-hearst” like a tourist).   It was lovely to see my Nan & Pops, especially since Pops recently had a heart attack and we are all relieved he’s doing okay.  They were wonderful to Abigail, and made a huge fuss over her, what with Pops singing songs and playing guitar for her, and Nan playing peekaboo, which led to Abigail learning to give a hearty “Aaaahhh-BOOO” which she still does.   They thought she was beautiful and brilliant, and I happen to agree.  After some breakfast and grocery shopping, we went to the cottage, which is less than a half an hour from Amherst on Heather Beach, right on the ocean.  The cottage has all the modern conveniences, which a girl like me appreciates since the great outdoors and I have a love-hate relationship.  It also has a view of the ocean and is a five-minute walk from the beach.  I’m not sure that we were really roughing it, what with the microwave and satellite tv, but I enjoyed the change of surrounding.

A cottage by the ocean...

A cottage by the ocean...

After getting settled in we took a walk down to the beach for a swim.  This may have been the highlight of the trip, since Abigail loved the sand and water, and loved the mixture of the two even more.  We figured she’d learn not to eat mud after her first mouthful, but boy were we wrong.  The kid loves to eat dirt, and I haven’t quite figured out this impulse yet.  And happily she also loved the water, which didn’t really surprise me since she still goes crazy for her swimming lessons, although she turns her nose up at her little pool in our backyard.  Too small-time for her now, I guess.

Hmm, Nova Scotia mud is saltier than Ontario mud...

Hmm, Nova Scotia mud is saltier than Ontario mud...

On Saturday we went to a nearby town, Pugwash, to walk around and have lunch. 


The influence of the Scots was everywhere – there were bilingual English/Gaelic signposts throughout Pugwash, and some in Halifax as well.  It makes you realize how close to the surface Canada’s Scottish heritage really is in that part of the country.

When we arrived there was a memorial ceremony going on at the Pugwash cenotaph, which was on a corner in the centre of town. 

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

I’m always affected by the sight of soldiers, young and old, assembling in uniform to pay respect to those who have fallen in battle.  This made me think of my thesis advisor, Jonathan Vance’s book, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War, which is all about how people and communities commemorated their war dead after the First World War, and how different approaches are taken in different areas.  It’s brilliant reading, and I’m not just sucking up. 

So back to the travelogue: We had lunch on the patio of the Chatterbox Cafe, where we were served lovely seafood chowder and homemade unsweetened iced tea and listened to CBC sports guy John Hancock tell stories inside.  No seriously, he was there.  There was a spoken word series going on, and I knew I recognized the voice, but Erik came up with the name.  How bizarre that he was there (or maybe not – is he from Pugwash?  Is Pugwash a frequent tour stop for radio personalities?)

Ah, erm, I ordered the seafood chowdah...

Ah, erm, I ordered the seafood chowdah...

On the way back from Pugwash – I just like saying it, Pugwash – we stopped for ice cream at a mom and pops craft store and ice cream bar – seriously, a couple that looked like your nicest idea of somebody’s grandparents ran it – and the ice cream was good, but the crafts were less so.  Think crocheted toilet roll covers … um, yeah.   Although there were a couple of quilts I considered trading Abigail for, they were that pretty and so far out of my price range.  The big news of that day, though, was that Abigail had her first experience with ice cream.  She was sort of enthusiastic.  She wasn’t totally in love, probably because it was vanilla, and how boring is vanilla ice cream?  We’ll fix that soon enough.

What about this chocolate I keep hearing about??

What about this chocolate I keep hearing about??

Before finally heading home we picked up fresh cooked lobsters from Chase’s down the road and had surf adn turf after the baby went to bed. (And no, I don’t know why the lobster looks so sinister below.)

NS Lobster, NS wine.  One was much better than the other.

NS Lobster, NS wine. One was much better than the other.

The following day, Sunday, we hung around the cottage in the early part of the day, not doing much other than eating cookies (Abigail) and playing with Abigail (us). 

Serious cookie.

Serious cookie.

We had Nan & Pops over for a thank-you lobster dinner that evening, and some other family popped by later.  I was surprised with an early birthday cake and presents, which was wonderful and unexpected.

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!

On Monday we drove across the Confederation bridge to visit Charlottetown, since neither Erik nor I had ever been to PEI.  I hate to say it, but I was terribly unimpressed with the bridge.  I mean, it’s big and all, but you can’t really see much what with the high concrete sides, and isn’t that too bad?  Couldn’t someone involved in the bridge-building process have said “you know what, guys?  Maybe we should figure out a way that people crossing this heralded bridge can have a nice view.”  Instead, you can see concrete and the horizon, and that’s it.  And they nail you for $42.50 when you leave the province for the privilege.  But PEI itself was very pretty, and we enjoyed the bit of Charlottetown we saw.  We mostly strolled around the harbour front and had lunch at a terrific but unfortunately named place called Flex Mussels (I like a pun as much as the next girl, but come on).   But the mussels were great, so all was forgiven (and how pretty is the picture below?).

Fresh PEI mussels...and beer

Fresh PEI mussels...and beer

I showed Abigail some live lobsters and crabs, and didn’t tell her that they were about to become lunch. 


They all go to good, loving homes...I promise...

Of course we got Abigail a hardcover copy of Anne of Green Gables and a doll version of Anne to go with it.  She tried on a sou’wester, but couldn’t decide if neon yellow was her colour or not.  Our side trips had to be short so as not to screw up Abigail’s schedule completely, so we headed back to the cottage for dinner.  On the way back we stopped at an antique shop, which you probably already knew was a bad idea with a baby in tow.   I handed her off to Erik when we entered the shop figuring that a) it was more important that my hands were free to check out the merchandise, and b) she was less likely to cause trouble from way up there in her dad’s arms.  There was a flaw in my logic there somewhere, and I’m sure you can see where this is going.  A few moments after the hand-off we heard a crash (who’s we, you ask?  Oh, me and the store owner, whom I happened to be chatting to at the time of the crash), and after some awkward offering to pay for the broken plate(s) and the store owner refusing, also awkwardly, I found myself the proud owner of an overpriced antique necklace that I didn’t really need.   But it’s pretty and I had to buy something, right?

On Tuesday MY BIRTHDAY we stayed around the cottage and made another trip to the beach. 

Beach baby

Beach baby

That night we went to a local restaurant, The Sandpiper, for fish and chips and beer.  When we arrived at the restaurant we had to wait for a table, and while we waited I noticed that Erik was wearing his shirt inside out.  What happened next absolutely illustrates the difference between the sexes.  If that had been me, I would have dashed to the ladies room to immediately fix my shirt and pray that nobody else had noticed because ohmigod my shirt was on inside out and what if someone had noticed.  Erik, on the other hand, waited until we were seated, settled himself in, ordered a beer, then went to the washroom to turn his shirt right-side-out, and really only then because I nagged him into it.   But I digress…

We drove into Halifax on Wednesday and met a friend of mine from university for lunch.  We walked along the Harbour – actually, I guess we took the Harbourwalk…at least that’s what the sign said.  It was a bit of a rainy day but warm enough to walk around (overall the weather was great during our trip, and apparently we missed the tornado that hit the Ottawa area, hah, suckers).  

God I have a handsome husband.  I mean, here's a picture of Erik and Abigail on the Halifax waterfront.

God I have a handsome husband. I mean, here's a picture of Erik and Abigail on the Halifax waterfront.

We had a bad and slow lunch at the Hart & Thistle, but we got to sit on the patio overlooking the water, and watched the Johnny Depp/Pirates of the Carribbean impersonators walk by (um, Halifax, this is not a good tourist draw.  It’s ridiculous).   Although the tall ships weren’t really in port until the following day there were a couple to see, and Theodore Tugboat was chugging around too.

No, that's not a tallship but I figured you're getting tired of all the pictures, so I didn't include one.

The view from the Harbour. No, that's not a tallship but I figured you're getting tired of all the pictures, so I didn't include one.

 Our last stop in Halifax was Pier 21, which had special meaning for Erik because that is where his mom and her family entered Canada when they emigrated from Holland.  Erik was able to get the ship manifest from her ship, which contains the names of his family members.  Because I’m a history geek I thought this was pretty neat.


New beginnings

Thursday was a quiet day of packing up and cleaning up, and we hit the road for home after a stop at Nan & Pops’ for dinner (homemade seafood chowder and strawberry shortcake, yum).  I know Erik probably could have stayed longer, but I was kind of ready to come home.  Traveling with a baby is challenging, even when the baby is as easy as Abigail was during this trip.  And the daily chores of cooking, caring for baby, neatening up, etc. don’t disappear just because we were in a different location, so in some ways it was tiring to try to keep to a regular routine in a different place with different things around.  Abigail had some treats  on the trip – vanilla ice cream and french fries and a teeny bit of whipped cream – but the biggest change for her was having jarred baby food for the first time ever.  I was secretly gratified that she didn’t really care for most of it (clearly my cooking is superior to anything PC Organics can crank out, heh) although this meant that I ended up cooking for the little critter anyway, despite my attempt to simplify things for the duration of the trip.  And my smugness about feeding my baby freshly cooked food came to an end when Abigail tasted the PC Organics Blueberry Dessert.  If she could have put her head in the jar and licked it clean she would have.  If I had to guess, that was the highlight of her holiday.

Farewell to Nova Scotia...

Farewell to Nova Scotia...

Our first vacation as a family of three was lovely, and we all had a good time and got a much needed break from our everyday lives.  We’re feeling much more confident about traveling with Abigail now that this first time went so smoothly.  Can’t wait for the next adventure!  And speaking of that, what is your favourite vacation memory?  Where was your favourite place?  I still think Paris is top of my list, but that was a different kind of vacation entirely.

Abigail’s first birthday was on the 21st, so since we got home I’ve been baking her cake and getting stuff ready for her family birthday party (her ‘friend’ party is this upcoming Sunday – yes, we’re having two parties for her, why?  I don’t know, because I don’t have enough to do and it seemed like a good idea at the time).  I bought a ton of pink princess first birthday party stuff, and then Erik brought home more pink girlie princess balloons – it’s kind of sickening in an adorable way.  But she’s only this little once, and we want to do it up right, and I am a big fan of pink and girlie.  And you try to find gender-neutral birthday decorations for a one-year old.  Who are the Backyardigans anyway?  So my next post will be about her turning one, with pictures from her parties and an attempt to figure out my mixed emotions about my wee girl getting big.



  1. Did I know that Jonathan Vance was your thesis advisor? I just finished reading his latest book, Unlilkely Soldiers, which my Dad gave to me for Christmas. A great read – let me know if you are interested in borrowing it.

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