oh yes, Chicago!


Chicago, Chicago, Chicago.

I will not soon be forgetting the week there!

It’s hard to really describe it in a way that’s not just “the buildings were tall! we had fun!” (although both of those are true), so I’ll just do some counting instead:

Eight days, three Phish concerts, many city busses and L-train rides, countless passersby, dozens of hugs and “pleased to meet you”s with Adam’s dearest friends, two very sore feet, one big smiling face. Three Chicago-style hot dogs, two pieces of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, one Italian Beef sandwich. Too many $14 strawberry-ritas (at the concerts), one delicious mimosa at brunch at Toast, lots of water bottle refills to stay hydrated. One sweet visit to a free zoo, one baseball game, hundreds of beautiful architectural details. Dozens of bubbles blown, five or six sidewalk chalk drawings, and one red yarn “gypso halo” bought from a couple at the concert for $10.

And of course, probably too many photos! I’m sharing 39 here today, which likely breaks a blogging rule of some kind (“don’t overwhelm your posts with superfluous photos”) but today, I do not care.


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on vacation!

onvacation And… we’re away! From YQY to ORD for a week of visiting, eating and drinking, dancing, and generally having a good time.

I’ll be back here on the blog on July 24th.

Til then you can find me on Instagram, which will also post to my Twitter and personal Facebook (but not the Dream Big Facebook group).

Have a good one yourself!

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multitude monday / july 14


My friend and former design classmate Katie MacLennan writes a great blog called Polka Dot Soup. On it she writes a post some Mondays called “Multitude Monday.” She writes, “Mondays are about documenting the little (or big!) things in life that make me oh-so-happy. Let’s make Mondays a day to reflect on the goodies, and not the baddies.”

Also, a few months ago I read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly: How The Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead,” in which she writes, “The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

(The last Multitude Monday post I wrote, last month, is here.)

Here are the ten things right now that I’m thankful for:

111. Sunshine and warm weather!

112. A weekend at the river.

113. Time when I’m not working. This month off is seriously blissful!

114. Listening to the CBC Cape Breton Information Morning gardening phone-in while I drank my coffee and ate my breakfast, this morning. I love listening to questions about pruning and fertilizer. Seriously!

115. A lunch date with my mom today.

116. A growing garden to tend to. Checking the plants every day and seeing them grow is so much fun.

117. A super fun photoshoot with my dear friend, last week. My memories of it are sun-drenched, peaceful and full of laughter.

118. Windows open all night long, and cool air in the house when we wake at 6:30.

119. Adam’s folks being able to check on our house while we’re away. They’re the best in-laws! (Hi Colin and Mary-Jane!)

120. I’m so so so excited to be packing today and getting ready for our trip! We leave tomorrow for a week in Chicago. Eeeeeeeee!!!! I’m grinning really huge over here, and cannot wait to get there, meet all of Adam’s best friends, and have a vacation with my honey!!! Woot!

Have a great Monday!

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links loved / july 12

balloonslinkloved Happy Saturday and weekend everyone!

I had a really fun day yesterday getting my hair and makeup done, and then having a photoshoot with my friend Morwenna. (We originally met because of this blog… I interviewed her back in 2012, and the post about her and her family is here!)

I can’t wait to see –and share with you all — the images she took, so when she’s done editing them I’ll be sure to do that.

Now on with the weekend! We’re heading to Middle River later today, to Adam’s cousin’s cabin for the night. Here is a post from an earlier trip to that spot. We love it there, hanging out with family, dipping in the river, and sitting around the campfire. Good times.

But first! Some weekend link-loving, inspired by Elise and her weekend links series! Here we go:

The textures on this big white weaving by Elise are super gorgeous.

A bright and colourful family rock garden.

The Araxi Longtable series in Whistler, BC, looks like it would be amazing (dining in a field at a super long table). Although if you did that here in Cape Breton the blackflies would probably carry the whole table away, lol.

The 10% Shift Nova Scotia campaign sounds like an interesting and doable way to support the local economy.

These photos of a young family by Tara Whitney just kill me. The sunlight, their hair, the little girl looking up at her parents as they hug, the other little girl looking through the hole in the swing set thing, and then the finger paint!!

A dance troupe that came in 2nd place at the Vibe competition rocks it. They slow down and speed up in perfect synchronicity and look like they might not even be human. (Video runs 5:57.) At around the 3-minute mark they bring in a live violin, too, which is rad incorporated into this mostly hip-hop routine.

I love my friend Katie’s first letter to her little girl, Violet.

The Local Traveler NS talks about letting our actions define us as a region, instead of a brand.

Have a super fun weekend!


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quick post Friday / july 11


Over at the Share That You Care Facebook page, today I shared a graphic that I made using coloured pencils (and Photoshop too, afterwards). Above here is a pic I snapped last night while I was working on it, which I was doing next to the stove while I boiled potatoes for supper.

This is a quick post this morning, as I’m heading off for a day of fun stuff that involves lunch with a friend, then some helium balloons, and a friend of mine who is a photographer! Also, the plans involve a professional makeup artist. Intrigued? Ooh, I am! I’ll share sneak peeks on my Instagram and will share the results of what we make on here soon.

Have a great day!

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A day with Rhonda: Cape Breton Miners’ Museum + more in Glace Bay

daywithrhonda01 This past winter I got an email from a lady in California who was thinking of coming to Cape Breton. She had found my blog by Googling “Cape Breton,” found the blog interesting, and wondered if I could help her with some of the questions she had about the place. I suggested she join the Facebook group for this blog and pose her questions there, that way she could “crowd-source” her answers.

So she did that, (and thanks to all of you who answered her questions!) and we continued to correspond, and we became friends!

Rhonda’s trip here is just ending, but she was here in Nova Scotia for a whole month. (I’m picking her brain for an upcoming post about what it’s like to be here as a visitor — her impressions, et cetera.) We hung out in Baddeck last week, and then we hung out again yesterday, over here in the CBRM, which I guess answers your burning question, “Would Leah hang out with me if I went to Cape Breton?” I know, you were really pondering that, haha. But the answer is, Absolutely!

Anyway, today’s post is some photos and words from our day together, yesterday, spent in the Glace Bay area.

So our day started out in Sydney, after I picked her up from her hotel, with yummy coffee from Doktor Luke’s, and tasty food at the Bacon Bus (pictured above — Rhonda ordering her breakfast). Then we drove out to Glace Bay to the Cape Breton Miners’ Museum.

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We walked through the exhibit part of the museum first, looking at all the displays about coal, and the history of mining in Cape Breton. Fascinating stuff, really well-displayed!

daywithrhonda08 daywithrhonda09 Then came the tour of a mine, which to my mind is the best part of the whole museum. A retired Cape Breton coal miner is your tour guide — ours was named Wish Donovan. (Wish is short for “Aloysius.”) We gathered, a group of about 15 people, and put on capes and hard hats, and sat on wooden benches in a little area in the museum. Wish starts the tour by telling you all about how coal came to be mined in Cape Breton, and what life was like for a miner.

And it absolutely floored me.

I can’t say “I had no idea” that things were as hard for them as they were. I did have an idea. But it was one of those things that I don’t think about very much when I’m going about my day-to-day life.

But listening to this man tell us about the long, long hours the miners worked (12 to 14 hour days, and that doesn’t include the hour ride out underground, there and back), and about how the coal company essentially owned the workers, with all of their weekly wages being used to pay for their family’s bill at the company store, and about how the houses were leased to the miners, but they had to always have one man in the household working in the mine in order to live there — all of it was hard to really comprehend.

I think what drove home to me just how hard this life was, and that it really did happen, is that it happened here, on Cape Breton, the place where I live and explore and love. The island and the landscape I know so intimately — seeing the apple trees blossom, seeing the clouds in the sky, watching the waves come over the sand, and the snow blow in winter — this landscape only a short time ago was the host of this huge mining operation and the working life it entailed. The people living back then saw the same apple blossoms, the same clouds, the same waves, the same snow, as I do.

It kind of blows me away that I live in the communities that are directly descended from that whole chunk of history. I’ve met retired miners. I know many people whose male ancestors all worked in the mines. But I had no real clue of what it was like for them, until I went down into the mine at the museum.


daywithrhonda11 daywithrhonda12 daywithrhonda13 daywithrhonda14 So we went down into the Ocean Deeps Colliery. We walked down — it’s not very far, as this particular mine was designed for tours, not as a working mine. But even though it’s not far, it immediately gets colder, and damp. And very dark.

Wish took us along the road — that’s what the part you walk on in the mine is called. He pointed out the doors at the entrance to each road that branched off, doors that they would shut to control the air flow. (There always has be fresh air in a mine, and from how much he talked about it, I got the sense that the way the air is flowing is of utmost importance.) Wish talked about the ponies who lived down in the mines and pulled the carts of coal. He showed us the face of the coal, and turned on a drill that was used to cut the coal off the face, letting us hear how loud it was and the steady hydraulic pumping sound it made. It filled the whole space.

He talked about the long, long working hours, and about the scary ride in the rake (the little train) down into the mine, that could take an hour to get out to where the coal was being produced.

We were stooped over — at least, us tall folks — most of the time. Whenever the group would stop to hear Wish talk, I’d kneel down a bit to relieve my back. At the end when we all walked out into the area where we could stand straight, there was a collective “Ahhh!” and laughter, relief.

Writing this now, a day later, I feel a strange urge to go back there, back down into the mine. There is something about it, that I can’t quite put my finger on, something gritty and real. Wish told us that most retired miners would go back to work in a heartbeat if the mines were re-opened, that even though mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, the miners felt a sense of camaraderie with one another that made it a good job, one they looked forward to.

At one point in the tour, when we were all seated on little benches around a garden underground, I could feel what it might have been like, that camaraderie. There we were, a group of mainly strangers, some from Germany, the USA, and other parts of Canada, all kind of wrapped-up together inside of a huge seam of hard, wet, dark rock, a totally dangerous and weird place for a group of humans to be. Yet in the light that was there, looking around at my fellow tour members, their faces suddenly seemed so interesting to me. The stories we were telling seemed richer somehow. Surrounded by inanimate black stone, these other humans meant more to me below ground that they might have, up above.

Anyway, I could ramble on all day about the Miners Museum! The experience there is going to stay with me for a long, long time, especially in the mornings as I send my own partner off to work with his lunch can and safety boots. He is working somewhere much safer (he’s an electrician, in the IBEW union) and he comes home at 4:00. That alone is enough to make me feel incredibly grateful.

I feel like a tour of the Miners’ Museum should be mandatory for any Cape Bretoner, to really feel the history that happened here, that built the communities we live with now.

Check the Miners’ Museum out on Facebook to stay in touch with the museum is up to!

daywithrhonda15 After we came out of the Museum, we briefly checked out the Marconi National Historic Site (which I had seen in a previous visit, here) but we were hungry, so we went to Colette’s, a local Glace Bay diner. The food was fresh, the service fast and friendly, and the prices super reasonable. I’d go again for sure!

daywithrhonda16 While we were there, I pulled out my trusty adventure companion, the Nova Scotia Atlas, to see where we might go next. daywithrhonda17 I wanted to see Glace Bay Beach on a nice day (this is the post I wrote in 2012 when I went there as part of my 10Beaches/2012 project, and it was raining and the beach was mysteriously covered in fish heads).
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And the Glace Bay redeemed itself! It was beautiful, there were lots of families there, and a steady wind blowing the sand across. That black stuff in the water around my feet? Coal! Rhonda and I walked along and chatted, got our feet wet and our hair blown around, and then walked back.


We decided to drive through Port Caledonia, Donkin and Long Beach, to Port Morien, and then back to Glace Bay and Sydney. We pulled off at Schooner Pond Beach and got out, and looked at what was there a bit. We saw irises in the ditch, and looked at some of the other plants. Rhonda just retired from being a Middle School science teacher, and her education is in botany and biology, and natural dyes. So interesting!

I found out afterwards that this beach is also a great spot for fossil-hunting.

daywithrhonda23 daywithrhonda24 Then in Port Morien we stopped and looked at this little historical information area.

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Can anyone tell me what this sculpture is all about? I’m guessing it has something to do with coal and coal carts but really had no idea.

daywithrhonda27 We both agreed that this board (on a closed-down store just across the street) had amazing texture and would make a really cool weaving. daywithrhonda28 The little historical display.

So that was our day! Very filling, in many ways. From the history lessons, to the fresh air and sunshine, to spending time with a lovely new friend, it was just what I needed.

You can check out Rhonda’s blog here.

Have a great day!



Posted in Active living, Community, Day to Day Life, Social Media, Towns + communities, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

a quick strawberry sketch


Thought process: “It’s 7 am. What am I going to blog about today?”

“Hmm, I like cherries. Maybe I’ll whip out my sketchbook and draw these cherries I’ve been munching on for a half hour while I made Adam’s lunch.”

(Yup, I just admitted that I make Adam’s lunch.)

“Wait, cherries aren’t local, and I’ve just said on the blog I want to eat more local.”

“OK, the strawberries I bought the other day are local. I’ll draw them.”


“Maybe I’ll do a blog post about how to enjoy your summer.”

“Oh, what am I doing? This is going to look awful.”

“Well, I’ll give it a shot anyway.”


“Ooh, this coral red is perfect!”

“This isn’t looking half bad…”

drawingaberry4 “I actually like this a lot!”

“Now let’s add a word… summer!”

Summer here in Cape Breton is short. Blink and you’ll miss it. Another month and it will be almost over.

So, I’m outta here! Off to explore a part of the island with a new friend.

Have a lovely day!


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