Tuesday, December 4, 2012

a little christmas mix

With Christmas music making its appearance earlier and earlier every year (honestly - there's a Monster Mash - Little Drummer Boy mash-up on its way I'm sure), you can pretty quickly reach your limit for Rudolph, Christmas Shoes and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Here is my antidote.

december 2012 by Heather Allaby on Grooveshark
And of course you can never go wrong with Charlie Brown's Christmas...

Monday, December 3, 2012


Milk glass and apothecary jars, vintage ornament from my grandmother and letters from my dad's old anagrams set.  These are a few of my favourite things.

And just like that December is upon us.  We've had more drizzle than snow so far but that hasn't dampened my holiday spirit.

I've hauled out my advent calendar and started to trim the house a bit for the season. 

In recent years I've decorated in a style best described as "vintage tinsel explosion."  I've loved it but this season I'm finding I'm craving simplicity from the music I play to the gifts I'm choosing.  So I've enjoyed creating a cozy oasis of found items from around the house and the backyard.  When I bought this house five years ago, I loved the stand of cedars at the very back of the yard and was excited to use them in Christmas decorating.  I finally got around to it.

I'd rather wander in my backyard than a big box store.  (The mercury glass inspired ornaments are from last year's #bringitdowntown trip to Savour Decor)
No need to pack away this cozy corner after the 25th!

Our local markets are in full swing for the holidays.  I wish there was some way to capture the fragrance of the Christmas tree and wreath stalls.  I splurged on a wreath of boxwood, juniper, cedar, pine and fir.  It was a touch pricier than a standard fir or spruce but the mixed greenery means it doesn't require any extra decoration. 

On Saturday afternoon, I picked up my Uncle John to help him out with come Christmas shopping downtown.  We live in the same city but don't get to see one another very often so  in the past few years this has become a nice bit of uncle-niece bonding.  Of course, I had to stop at Urban Almanac - Ben whipped up a Choclatea for me.  It might be my new favourite drink.  

Sunday brought more markets and more wreaths as Denis and I hit the Boyce Sunday market and then the Northside Market.  (I finally tried the Ethopian food - it didn't disappoint.  Can't wait to introduce it to my dad!)

D. at the Boyce.  (and modelling his birthday hat - one of my favourite recent knitting projects)

How was your first weekend of December?  Have you started decorating?

Friday, November 30, 2012

#bringitdowntown tasha tea

Pretty much since Andrew Wilkins opened the doors to Urban Almanac (75 York St.) fourteen years ago it has been one of my favourite shops in Downtown Fredericton.  The store has been constantly evolving and expanding and about 18 months ago he added Tasha Tea and a tea bar.  While I am an avowed coffee drinker, I've loved exploring the high quality blends.  
 enjoy a special offer from Tasha Tea after the jump

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

in threes

My friend Hannah met her husband Aaron at the Miramichi Scottish Festival.  Their wedding was awash in tartan and kilts, bagpipes and heather and they honey-mooned in Scottish castles.  So when it came time to make a gift for their new daughter Sydney, I opted for something that would suit a wee lass on the Highlands.  Kelly Herdrich's "In Threes"  baby and children's cardigan is both classic and contemporary and would look adorable over a long sleeved white tee and a kilt.  Or jeans.  I love baby clothes in non-baby colours and this gold-flecked green is reminiscent of the colours of the Highlands.  It's a shade called Fennel by Berroco Vintage  - a super-soft machine-washable yarn that I can't recommend highly enough for any knit pieces that will get a lot of wear.  I especially love it for gifts for children because busy moms don't have time to be all precious about hand-laundering.

The real finishing touch were the three buttons I found in my button jar (do you have a button jar?  Mine's largely inherited from my late grandmother and I highly recommend them.)  I love the detailing of the little silver buttons.  
This will definitely be a go-to pattern.  It's a relatively quick knit, she sizes up to a child's size five and it's a shape that will be quite forgiving and allow a child lots of wear before it gets packed away.  It's too big for little Sydney yet but it will be a perfect sweater for spring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

think art stuff

Last week I had the chance to attend another private shopping party at ThinkPlay and Endeavours (412 Queen Street).   Owner Luke Randall gave me the low-down on what's hot this holiday season.  Be sure to check out the Black Friday deals at the end of this post!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

christmas ideas close to home

On Sunday afternoon Alicia Tracy (of The Hot Lollies) opened her charming Lansdowne Street home to showcase local art, craft, food and home decor.  A cozy home, great refreshments, Bing Crosby singing and inspiring talent? Who needs the mall?   If you're looking to love local this Christmas (or anytime) be sure to check out these folks.

The Hot Lollies - Renna and Alicia's gourmet cheesecake lollipops have been the rage since they started in 2007.  The Lil Lollies packs are perfect for sharing! 

Love on the Bum - Bright fluffy tutus, whimsical accessories - if you have a little one who loves to play dress-up, check out Amie Palmer's cute creations.

Tangled Love Decor - Chavah Haddon's creative and colourful refinished, re-purposed and upcycled furniture and accessories will brighten up even the darkest winter day.  One of her pieces might have come home with me...

LS Knits - Crocheted hats, cozy felted mittens and cuddly soft toys - you can check off lots of your Christmas list here.

G.L.C. Jewels – Who doesn't need a little sparkle this time of year?  I love the disco ball studs and at $13 a pair you can stock up on a few different colours.

Kris LeBlanc Art Kris's vivid paintings and prints offer up a colourful take on nature and some of Fredericton's favourite landmarks.

Moco Catering & Kitchen Parties - 'Tis the season for entertaining and if you can't face the thought of spending a holiday party in the kitchen, why not give Chef Brian Foster a call? 

And if you're looking to pamper someone (or maybe even yourself) keep an eye out for Sanctuary Botanicals and B Polished Esthetics!

The littlest entrepreneur.  Sophia was adorable.  You know I didn't get out of there without one of these ornaments!

Monday, November 19, 2012

#bringitdowntown with made you blush (and a giveaway!)

“Holidays are all about the glow.”

It’s a brisk Saturday afternoon in downtown Fredericton and I’m perched in the makeup chair at Made You Blush (59 York St.) while Kyra Baldwin works her magic.   This year our #bringitdowntown challenge was to try something new.  What better way to start than a new look for all those holiday festivities that are just around the corner. 

We had so much fun - there was glitter involved!  It was like arts and crafts for my face! 

My final look, some great advice from the girls and details on a giveaway after the jump

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#bringitdowntown : the sequel

I'm so excited to have been asked to #bringitdowntown again this year.  Like last year Downtown Fredericton invited 15 social media types to Bring the Love Downtown.  Each of us have been given $100 Downtown dollars and the only condition is that we document how we spend it.  This year, in a new twist, five wildcard spots were offered and people made their pitches on Facebook and Twitter.  I'm really happy with the choices - some of my favourite locals were chosen and I know they'll do a great job! 

Last year I brought it downtown by:
This year we've all been asked to get curious and try something new.  I think I'll be spending this evening poring over the Downtown Fredericton directory to find some ideas.  

I'd love to hear your suggestions! Where should I spend my Downtown Dollars?

You can follow all the fun on Twitter - we're using the hashtag #bringitdowntown

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Collect stamps or drink whisky... c'mon!
the quotable Frank Scott on hobbies 

One of my latest assignments for the Fredericton Tourism Town Square Social Hub was a tee-up piece on the NB Spirits Festival happening later this month.  I'm also headed to a whisky Master Class during the Festival.  I thought it would be an interesting challenge since I'm not actually a whisky drinker. In fact I'd never actually sipped a single malt scotch in my life. Whether you're a whisky newbie or a whisky aficionado there's one place in Fredericton you head if you want to learn about scotch: to the Lunar Rogue to see frank Scott.  "The Rogue" has been ranked one of the world's great whisky bars with 400 whiskies on offer - it also happens to be the pub of choice for the TNB crowd so it's kind of remarkable that I hadn't taken the opportunity before to sample their spirits .  Frank and I had a great chat (which you can read about here) and he invited me to a "Pre-Show Warm-Up" whisky tasting.

I'm a bit of a geek about, well, everything, so I love tastings and classes.  And this one didn't disappoint.  Frank was his usual jovial self and he and co-presenter Pierre Mullin walked us through six whiskeys:

Glenfiddich 18 -  Oaky and warming and fragrant with the aroma of orchard fruit this was a good start with the brand that really put single malt scotch on the map in North America back in the day.

Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or -   From nose to finish, this was the one that hooked me. Aged in sauterne casks, the Nectar D'Or is rich with citrus notes and just a hint of coconut and nutmeg.  It's light and fresh and got even better when paired with a strong blue cheese.

Auchentosan Three Wood - My tasting notes for this one read: "Yum. Warm. Yum."  With notes of brown sugar, plum, raisin and orange, this would be a perfect sip by the fire on Christmas Eve.

Clynelish Distiller's Edition:    Cutting this slightly with water brought out notes of dried cherry and chocolate.  However there was a slightly salty quality that didn't really appeal to me.  I learned from Frank that Clynelish is a coastal distillery which accounts for this hint of salt.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban: A great counterpoint to the lightness of the Nectar D'or, this whisky is finished in port casks.  I got interested in fortified wines like port after being introduced to muscat during a visit to Australia's Cofield winery.   The Quinta Ruban boasts a remarkable combination of notes: including dark mint chocolate, sandalwood, pepper, rose, Turkish delight and sweet Seville oranges.  Great sniffing, greater sipping. 

Aberlour a'bunadh; at 59% alcohol, Frank dubs this a high efficiency whisky and recommends cutting it with a touch of water before drinking.  I think I sniffed this one for about five minutes.  An amazing spicy nose, I'd actually prefer dabbing this behind my ears rather than drinking, I think!

As first whisky experiences go it sure beats drinking Jack Daniels out of lab beaker in your college boyfriend's dorm room. (Never happened.  You can prove nothing.)

While I won't be stockpiling bottles of single malt scotch (each of the bottles above cost about the same as my weekly grocery budget and they'd be considered a steal by scotch standards) it's definitely a great little treat to warm up on winter nights in my favourite local pub.  Thanks Frank and Pierre! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

so... where were we?

The last post I wrote was the day before our season opened at Theatre New Brunswick.  The next 45 days or so were a bit of a blur.

We had a great season opener with Oleanna including a very nice review in the Globe and Mail.  Wearing a different blogging hat I had the chance to interview one of the show’s stars Natalie Roy, a Glad Girl if ever there was one.  My friend Ingrid hosted a lovely opening night bash at her gallery  - so much fun!

Opening night of Oleanna at Ingrid Mueller Art + Concepts
 The day after Oleanna opened we started rehearsals for Norm Foster’s new comedy Hilda’s Yard. Watching a world premiere come together is a really special experience particularly when you have a cast like we did – so many wonderful new friends.  Since we opened the week after Thanksgiving we all got together to celebrate and eat turkey together.   

Thanksgiving orphans take over Fred's kitchen
A week later the show was over (we have very short runs here) and I was hosting the closing night party.  And then it was time to get ready for the TNB Gala Hooray for Hollywood.  Which brings us to last weekend and an event fit for Hollywood royalty – an amazing night and a wonderful fundraiser that allows us to keep creating theatre magic.

A few of the details from the TNB Foundation gala - snapped during set-up.
Somewhere in there I had the chance to see Great Lake Swimmers thanks to Denis, wrote a couple of blog posts on local eating and the harvest markets for the Fredericton Tourism Town Square Social Hub and got a good start on my Christmas knitting  - which unfortunately I can’t show you since the recipients tend to read this blog…

And now it’s November!  The days are shorter, the tree branches are bare and the temperature is dipping.   All the makings for a few long winter’s nights and hopefully a little more regular blogging!

So what have you been up to?  I can't wait to hear!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

a day in the country

With our first show of the season opening this week and a world premiere heading into rehearsals on Friday, leisurely Saturdays are a luxury.  Last weekend Caleb and I decided to hit the road in search of "old things and wine" in Cambridge-Narrows.  The hour long journe down the 105 to Cambridge Narrows is one of my favourite drives and I try to make it at least once a summer or autumn.   And a stop at  9J Antiques is always a must:  two floors and a large back building packed to the rafter with treasures!  With bigger budget (and a bigger car!) I think we would have happily trucked back some great furniture pieces but in the end we each found a few little items and even a hard-to-source prop for next spring's big musical

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

fall into fredericton

Such as busy and fun weekend!  Kicked things off with a Theatre New Brunswick company barbeque at Caleb's to celebrate the start of our 46th season (!) and the arrival of the Oleanna cast.  Productions are crazy times but I love when new casts arrive and new friendships and memories are made as you create something very special together.

Saturday brought a trip to the Boyce Farmer's Market, of course. It's the most wonderful time of the year at the farmer's markets - colourful, delicious fruits and vegetables and the folks who grow them.  A winning combination.

It's not all food at the market. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

christina martin at wilser's room

One of the great bonuses of contributing to the Fredericton Town Square Social Hub blog is the new people I'm getting to know. You'd think in a town this size we'd all pretty much know each other but there's always a new adventure!  On Tuesday, I hit Wilser's Room with nightlife contributor Emma Chevarie to get to jnow each other and take in a set from Halifax singer-songwriter Christina Martin.   I was a big fan of Christina's last album Two Hearts but hadn't seen her perform yet.  She is a wee pixie and charming between her songs and when she does sing the yearning in her voice will break your heart over and over again.

If you're interested in the live music scene in Fredericton, Emma's blog The Music Runs Through It, is a "must bookmark."  Her passion for live music shines through and it's a great place to find the next band you're going to love.

And check out Christina Martin's new video.  (Very "Glad Girl!")

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

rock island

Rock Island on Grand Manan

Last Christmas my friend Lori gave me a knitting pattern for the Rock Island shawl.  I'm not easily intimidated but this airy lacy wrap gave me pause - partly because it would be the first time I was knitting lace solely using charts and partly because it was, well, lace. For you non-knitters, lace weight yarn is only slightly heavier than thread.  Only slightly.   I finally took the plunge in August armed with my 4mm circulars and a skein of Madeline Tosh lace in French Grey.   The shawl is constructed by knitting the lace edging first and then picking up stitches and knitting the centre triangle.  The intricate lace edging was coming along well ... and then this happened.

The Rock Island disaster
I was on row 516 of the lace edging when I realized there was a mistake on row 264 that would make proper construction of the shawl impossible. The only solution was unraveling.  Like taking a band-aid off, I did it immediately and quickly and started back at it immediately.  Even with the disaster I finished the shawl in a week (lots of vacation knitting!) and it's probably one of my favourite things I've knit.  Despite being delicate, I didn't want to be too precious about wearing it and wore it to the Sardine Museum during the Summer's End Folk Festival.

Rock Island was designed by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.  This was my first introduction to Brooklyn Tweed but having flipped through their lookbooks, I'm definitely a fan.  Their work is strongly rooted in traditional techniques (like the Shetland shawl construction of Rock Island) with a contemporary feel and they manage to be at once cozy and elegant. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

fredericton fun

You may have noticed that I blog quite a bit about Fredericton.  So when Tourism Fredericton approached me to be a contributing blogger on the new Fredericton tourism blog, I jumped at the chance.  The blog launched yesterday and as we head into the long Labour Day weekend I kick things off with 10 ways to make the most of your last summer weekend in Fredericton.

How will you be spending the Labour Day weekend?

Just a few of my favourite Fredericton things: the skyline at dawn, walking in autumn leaves, cozy shops, paddling the river St. John, pipe bands, galleries, cappucino, Kings' Landing, apple picking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

to the lighthouse

Swallowtail Light is one of the iconic symbols of Grand Manan. Not only because it's undeniably picturesque but I think too because it's the beacon greets everyone arriving by ferry and it's one of the last landmarks you see as you leave. No matter the purpose or duration of your stay on the island, sailing round Swallowtail bookends everyone's Grand Manan experience. 

The light was first lit in July 1860 following increased calls for a new light on the northern end of the island after the January 1857 wreck of the Lord Ashburton.  (The light was originally fueled by porpoise oil!)  Swallowtail was destaffed in 1985 but unlike many destaffed lighthouses the keeper's buildings - house, boathouse, etc - remain intact. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

sardines and songs

Prior to Saturday the last time I spent any significant time in a herring shed, I was “stringing herring;” standing in front of a seemingly endless bin of fish and one-by-one poking a pointy stake in through the gill and out through the mouth so they could be hung from the rafters in the smokeshed.   A full stick earned me something in the neighbourhood of a dime.  I remember it being tedious and smelly and when I closed my eyes that night all I could see were herring heads staring up at me.  But I also remember sea breezes blowing through the shed, the sound of gulls and the kind of boisterous camaraderie that springs up from sharing a day of manual labour.   There weren’t many more days like this down at “The Crick” (the tidal creek in Seal Cove).  The waning smoked herring industry went into deep decline in the 1990s and is now just a memory. 

So it was under very different circumstances 20 years later that I returned to the Crick on Saturday for an afternoon with the Summer’s End Folk Festival artists at The Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame.  The museum is made up of a number of the old buildings and the legacy of the late Michael Zimmer.  (If you’re interested in the back story I recommend going here where my friend Peter Cunningham captures it beautifully.)

The Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame is not a museum as we typically think of it.  There are no interpretative plaques, no faithful re-creations of ‘how things were.’  Instead it’s a rather eccentric and artful jumble of artifacts; relics of a time when herring was king and the smell of smoking fish (‘the smell of money!’ my dad would chime in) permeated our hair, our clothes and our summers.

It’s magical place and the perfect spot to spend an afternoon of music.    

Peter explains the museum's history to Liam Finney, Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano, Ruth Minnikin & Bry Webb 
Bry Webb, Ruth Minnikin & Liam Finney.