life lately / june 19

1agoodlife It’s a super rad life, lately! A trip to St. Ann’s to hang out with my bro, some stuff happening on the job front that I can’t wait to share with y’all (soon!), getting back in the habit of getting a massage, a trip to Baddeck for the market and a visit with a gal pal, and a bunch more… man oh man. Life is full, blessed and so much fun these days! Here are some pics I picked off my phone from the last week or so.

2agoodlife I love, love, love this view when you turn the corner into St. Ann’s Bay, no matter the weather. It’s so beautiful.

photo-2 Rain on the grass is just stunning! Love all those droplets.

photo-5 photo-6 Me and Mat are obviously cut from the same very goofy cloth.


And the food at the Clucking Hen is just the best! No fowl moods, indeed.

photo-8 “Nature’s litter,” I once heard someone say about apple blossom petals. I like that.
photo-9 An outtake from my lilac selfies. (I take wayyy more selfies than I care to admit.)

photo-10 I was out at school to pick up my grad gown, and also to drop off some business cards to my new friend Quentin MacDonald, who owns Murphy’s Cove Lumber and Forging. (I met him at the North Sydney Farmer’s Market and am doing some design work for him.) He is also a welding instructor at the community college, and he showed me around the workshop. These letters are leftover from some laser-cutting he did for some stands that will be used to hold rope, and direct the line of people, during the graduation ceremony. Pretty neat!

photo-11 photo-13 Then I went over to the CBU Art Gallery to visit my classmate Jessica MacAulay, who is working there, and also to check out the new show there, “Doing Our Own Thing.” I found it powerful, like looking through family scrapbooks. (My parents moved to Cape Breton in the early 1980’s and were very much a part of the back-to-the-land movement.) Beautiful photos, a neat DIY thrasher, and a reading area with books was all proof of a movement that happened and that continues to resonate today.

photo-14 photo-16 And then, while waiting for a job interview, I got to hang out in a sweet little park on the corner of Esplanade and Dorchester, reading my book and watching passersby. It was a lovely sunny day and I got to eat some baklava from the Lebanese Flower, right next door. Seriously delicious!


Down the street, on the Esplanade: a mural I’ve always wanted to take pictures of:


And then, ahhhh…. finally got back on the table at my massage therapist’s. You would think that when life is busy, that’s when you need a massage the most! But the last few months, it totally slipped off my radar. But, thanks to a gift certificate I got for Christmas from my Mom (who is also an amazing massage therapist) for the lady I see in North Sydney, I finally made an appointment to go back and get a massage. And it convinced me, as it always does, that it seriously needs to be a monthly thing. I always fall into this blissful sleep-state and wake up feeling amazing.

photo-19 photo-20 Hanging baskets on my front stoop make my ridiculously happy.

photo-21 photo And then a trip to Baddeck yesterday to shop at the Community Market, and also to hike with my friend Tanya (we did Uisge Ban), was fun too! And then I got some great news on the job front, which I’ll share real soon. Oh and the burrito at the market was probably one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Thanks as always to you for reading and being so supportive and awesome! And I hope you have a great day. xo Leah

Posted in Active living, Community, Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Risk Takers: Pamela Johnson


I’ve started a new interview series here on the blog, called “Risk Takers.” The reason is that I’m feeling “poised” these days, on the edge of whatever will come after I graduate (this Saturday!) from my two-year design program at NSCC. (I’m wondering things like, Will I find a job? Where? Will I start my own business? But how? And so on.) All of this change happening in my own life makes me keenly aware of risk.

Risk is part of life, and it’s possible to take risks wherever you are in your life, but it comes to the forefront when you’re at a cross-roads, for sure. And then you wonder to yourself, should I take a risk? I’m often quite scared of taking risks, and feel anxiety about the unknown, just like everyone else.

So this is a selfish series, really! It’s to inspire me and remind me that risks can be exciting, and that everyone goes through the anxieties of taking risks, and that you have to go through them to get something worthwhile on the other side.

So I’m going to be reaching out to people who’ve taken risks and done interesting things, and sharing their stories, and I hope it brings you some of that inspiration too!

Pamela Johnson, a Risk Taker. Interview on Dream Big Cape Breton.

Today’s featured Risk Taker is Pamela Johnson. I can’t remember exactly where I met her, somewhere in the last few years, but she immediately struck me as a down-to-earth and friendly gal, and I was so glad we became friends. Through her actions, she’s encouraged me to be more open to change, more excited about life, and more body-confident. (For example, she once hosted a clothing swap for ladies sizes 12 and up. It was one of the best gatherings I’ve ever been to!)

Pamela Johnson currently works for the Coady International Institute located at St. FX. She is a Program Officer in the International Centre for Women’s Leadership and currently helps to coordinate 3 of the Institute’s 5 programs in Women’s Leadership, as well as facilitate in those programs and others in Coady. Since moving to Antigonish, she has become involved in projects that promote the growth of a Green Economy, and sits on the Coady Social Justice Committee. In short, she rocks!

Here are her answers to my questions about taking risks:

1) Name, age, where you live?

Pamela Johnson, 41, Antigonish, NS, former Ontarian, and proud honourary Cape Bretoner!

2) What is (or are) your passion(s)?

I get really excited about community driven development — grassroots action that is inclusive, focusses on the assets and talents of people around us, building on small projects with the end goal of broader systemic change. I am passionate about the importance of establishing social policy that is shaped in partnership by those whom it is meant to support/protect. I am also deeply interested in disability, food security and environmental sustainability. I am happiest and most inspired when I am with people who look at things in a fresh and inquisitive manner, people who want to share, collaborate and mentor others.

3) What is one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in business, in your career or in life? (Or more than one, if you feel like getting descriptive.) Did it pay off?

Leaving my home, job, community, friends and family to come to Cape Breton to finish my graduate degree and instigate a shift in my career was the most terrifying thing I had ever initiated in my life, and it paid off in spades! The shift left me feeling terrified. I had always felt security having the people and places I knew best close at hand. As well, I played a very defined role in my relationships with the people in my life as we all do – moving to do this changed all of that. The risk was professional, financial, and deeply personal…the result was transformative. I would not change the experience in any way.

4) Have you ever felt discouraged, unconfident, or unsure of what you’re doing? What do you do when that happens? (Think of this, too, as advice for others who might feel that way.)

Absolutely, I feel discouraged when I put energy into something and it doesn’t grab hold, but I have learned that is really about my own expectations and no one else. With time, my expectations of others have changed, I endeavour to see people for their strengths and accept they have weaknesses, just like me. I am far more forgiving with myself and others. Confidence is a characteristic that is building with age – insecurities about my abilities, my looks, my relationships are not completely absent, but are falling away – that is the gift of age. When I am feeling less confident, I remember the words of friends, family and mentors, you know, those constant messages we all get from people about our strengths and talents. We often throw compliments off like a blanket on a warm day, now I say “thank you. Be grateful people are reminding you that you have talents and gifts – return the favour and remind them too.

Taking Risks opens your head and your heart.

5) How has taking risks paid off for you? What good things have they brought to you, that you are grateful for?

Taking risks opens your head and your heart. When you take risks and it goes well you and others may be quick to compliment the action, when it doesn’t work out, you and others may be quick to reprimand. Arguably, I have learned as much from the failures as the triumphs. Taking risks has resulted in me always having work that is meaningful and mostly wonderful and enriching relationships. Occasionally, those risks have resulted in unadulterated entertainment – that can be good too.

The first three interviews in this series are with Jenni Welsh, Hailey Isadore and Denise Arsenault. For more Q+As with rad Cape Bretoners just go to my Interviews page!

Posted in Community, Newcomers, Women + kids | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

30walks: Johnson Lake


Well, my 30walks project sat on the back burner for a bit there, but now I’m ready to get back into it!

(These pictures were taken April 25th, so that’s why there is snow. I’ll have to go back to this spot soon and see what it’s like without snow!)

Background: I turned 30 this year. On my birthday, in April, I decided to start a new documentation/adventure project, called 30walks. You can read the first post about it here.

This is walk #: 1.

This walk is at: Johnson Lake, just outside of North Sydney. Exit 3 off the TCH has a parking lot. Park there, and you’ll see an ATV road going to the right, between the lake and the highway. Follow that. At the end of the lake, the trail turns in to the left, into the woods.

Easyness to find: pretty easy.

Easyness to walk: pretty easy.

Other notes: I didn’t go as far as I might have liked in, because I was alone and nobody actually knew where I was. (I hadn’t told anyone I was going there.) But it seems like the trails continue for a fair ways, maybe even all the way around the lake? The rock formations lining one part of the trail were really neat and made me wish for a geologist to tell me all about them. Overall, a really nice walk (except the part along the highway, but, oh well), and one I’ll be going back to, especially since it’s so close to where I live.


The parking lot at exit 3 and my rental car at the time. (This was just after I had hit the deer.)


The ATV road that goes down between the lake and the highway.

30walks1-johnsonlake03 30walks1-johnsonlake04 30walks1-johnsonlake06 30walks1-johnsonlake08 30walks1-johnsonlake11 30walks1-johnsonlake12 30walks1-johnsonlake13 30walks1-johnsonlake14 30walks1-johnsonlake15 30walks1-johnsonlake16 30walks1-johnsonlake17 30walks1-johnsonlake18 30walks1-johnsonlake19 30walks1-johnsonlake20 30walks1-johnsonlake22 30walks1-johnsonlake23 30walks1-johnsonlake24 30walks1-johnsonlake25 30walks1-johnsonlake26 30walks1-johnsonlake27 30walks1-johnsonlake28 30walks1-johnsonlake29 30walks1-johnsonlake30 30walks1-johnsonlake31 30walks1-johnsonlake32 30walks1-johnsonlake33

Posted in 30walks, Active living, Community, Outdoors | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

multitude monday / june 16

Tomato plants in a larch wood box. Cape Breton, NS.

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.” About the feature, 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.”

A few months ago I read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly,” 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 week, is here.)

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

101. Friday night spent over in Sydney in a house with a bunch of great lady-friends (and one guy — Hi Fenton!). We ate sushi, we played “Settlers of Catan” and “Cards Against Humanity” and laughed and shared stories.

102. Saturday morning at the greenhouse.

103. Hanging baskets for my front stoop!

104. Raspberry canes!

105. Planting the tomatoes my mom started from seed, into the box I got from Murphy’s Cove Lumber and Forging. (AKA my friend Quentin MacDonald). (That’s the photo at the top of this post.)

106. A wonderful meal at Lobster Pound in North Sydney by chef Richie Moore: mussels to start, then a grilled tuna steak on ciabatta bun with an asian coleslaw and garden salad, and crème brûlée for dessert. The personal service and the outstanding food makes this place my favourite restaurant, hands down.

107. Spending that meal with Adam and his parents, and laughing and sharing stories, and celebrating Father’s Day.

108. Sleeping the heck in on Sunday morning, then chatting with my own Father, who wanted a day to himself. (He had had a long work week.)

109. Driving over to the North Shore to spend time with my brother, who’s up house-sitting for a few days. (He moved to Halifax in January but is home often.) We drank coffee, laughed and shared stories (I’m sensing a theme here!) and then went to the Clucking Hen for a bite.

110. Booking our tickets for a trip to Chicago in July! Oh my goodness, I’m so excited!! We’ll be there for a whole week, and take in not one, not two, but three Phish shows (can you tell my partner is a huge Phish fan?), visit all his friends there (it’s where he lived from age 13 til his late twenties), and just generally check out cool stuff. I’ve never been to that city!

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. Now on with the week! Have a great Monday, everyone.

Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts | Tagged | Leave a comment

links loved / june 14

pine tree and sunshine, Cape Breton in June Every Saturday, inspired by Elise and her “weekend links“, I like to post some fun stuff I’ve seen lately, drooled over or otherwise just had to share.

Today in North Sydney we woke up to sunshine! I shelved my plans for an elaborate breakfast (I had thought it was going to rain), and am going to just eat a quick brekkie of toast and a hardboiled egg, get some coffee into me, and get out into the garden. It’s my slice of heaven, being out there, hearing the birds, and planting stuff in the ground.

But first! Some links:

I keep watching this promo video for a vacation for women graphic designers in Palm Springs and thinking, “Shit, we should totally do that here.” I’m dreaming and will start to act on those dreams soon, to see what we can make happen.

Speaking of dreaming: top 10 things to do in Paris.

The Yes and Yes Yearbook is a fun idea for listing and finding new bloggers, and I joined it this week.

Tiffany doesn’t want to have it all.

Gorgeous sign-painting and public-wall-art collective out of Brooklyn.

Seonaid got herself a permaculture certificate. “I woke up yesterday morning thinking about a science and technology in which we are acknowledged as part of the system, rather than maintaining the pretence of objectivity.”

How to mix florals, gingham and denim (I just knew you were wondering!) by one of my absolute fave fashion bloggers, who also happens to be over 40.

I ordered this necklace from a local gal who sells on Etsy and it’s really cute and fun!

A walk in Scotland with the Chino family.

Alright gang, I’m off to my garden, and to soak up every bit of awesomeness this weekend has in store. I hope you do too! Enjoy all those beautiful apple and cherry blossoms too. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.


Posted in Art, Community, Day to Day Life, Design, Leah's thoughts | Tagged | Leave a comment

one small change



It’s super cheesy. I know.

But it also happens to be absolutely true: The simplest thing, the attitude in my head, completely changes how I see the street I walk on, the sky above me, the people I meet, and the hope I feel.

I took these shots with my iPhone last month on Commercial Street in North Sydney. I’d been thinking about this idea for a while, and I may yet take images like it with a better quality camera and make the images more creative and fun.

But the idea, of course, is simple, and can be snapped with an iPhone: the only thing that changes in the two shots is me and my attitude. (Do you like my grumpy face? LOL.)

It’s something I forget all the time. And then remind myself of, over and over. And over and over I practice changing my attitude, and am always rewarded by feeling happier, by feeling more hopeful, by seeing beauty and opportunity for growth where before I saw decay, disrepair and sadness.

This doesn’t mean that attitude is all that has to change. Of course. An attitude shift doesn’t immediately get rid of poverty, drug abuse, crime, indifference and illness. But it does help me see that alongside all of those things, we as people and as a community have so much goodness, too. And that is one of the tools we need to continue to make positive change happen.

I hope you have a great Friday! And I’d love to know: is changing your attitude harder than it sounds? Or do you just generally need to be reminded? Let me know!

Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

book report / 4

"American Jezebel" by Eve LaPlante. Part of a Book Report post by Leah Noble.

Ok! So my last book report was March 10th, people. Whoa! That’s three months ago. That’s a long time! It’s been a busy three months. But here I am, at the other side of it, and ready to read, and chat, books again!

(My first three book reports are here, here and here, if you want to catch up.)

So for the first book we’ll go wayyy back to around that time, and I tried to read American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante. Bless him, my Dad thought I would love it when he gave this to me for Christmas. And on the surface it seemed like the kind of book I would love: a biography of a famous early feminist in the American colonies. But I got about three chapters in before admitting that (to me) it was super dry and not captivating at all. In book report 3 I talked about how I don’t finish a book if I’m not loving it, so I said “goodbye” to Anne Hutchison and the early American colonies, and moved on.

"The Limits Of Enchantment" by Graham Joyce. Book report by Leah Noble.

The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce was one that I picked while browsing in the local library branch. I do that sometimes, just wander through and read jackets until I find one that looks interesting. This one did look interesting, it was about a midwife in England in the 1960s. And this one held me about two thirds of the way through, before I realized I wasn’t rushing to pick it up when I ate breakfast or lunch. That’s my test of a good book, hah. Am I excited to read it while I’m eating, using the bathroom, or sitting on the couch in the evening? If so, then great! If not, then I move on.
"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple. Book report by Leah Noble. Excerpt from "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple. Book report by Leah Noble. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple. Book report by Leah Noble.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was one that met those criteria! I read this book in all those places. Bathroom included.

I did not want this book to end. It’s one of the few books where I’d devour a sequel just as fast. I loved Bee, loved her mom Bernadette. Loved their sauciness, their spice, their fallibility too. Bernadette’s art, her architecture, her devotion to a project, the way it made her ache when the house was torn down: this pricked a part of me that is always like, “Yes, YES” when it hears about strong women doing what they love. Following their own passion, their own calling, and damn the consequences. “You must create, or else you’ll become a menace to society,” says one character to Bernadette. Creation is hard work, but it is the only work, when it is in your blood.

And it’s a funny book. (The author was previously a writer on Mad About You, Ellen and Arrested Development, so, that’s not a surprise.) It’s warm, though, too. And loving.

And of course I must talk about the cover! Simple, made up of a few shapes, with a rad block sans serif font and a sweet little serif playing the supporting role. Here is a post on the blog “talking covers” (a great find while Googling around for this post!) about it, with thoughts by the author of the book, and by the designer too.

It reminded me of Smilla’s Sense of Snow — not sure why, but apparently I love a story about a strong woman going on a mystery/adventure in a frozen, watery place. The intrepid-ness? Intrepitude? Not a word.

AND the author’s website is really fun! Check it out.

Anyway. Yes. Loved it.

"How To Be Idle" by Tom Hodgkinson. Book report by Leah Noble.

How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is one that I had read before, years ago, and loved. I bought it for myself at the time but then never read it again. I picked it up when my life was really busy, thinking it would be good to remind myself why it’s good to slow down, but then I turned out to prefer actually being idle to reading about it. So I didn’t finish it. True story.

Anyway, it’s a great read by the editor of the magazine The Idler about how damned fast and ridiculous our culture has gotten about work and the use of our time. This book argues in support of the nap, the stroll, the lie-in, the skive.
"Evening Class" by Maeve Binchy. Book Report by Leah Noble. "Quentins" by Maeve Binchy. Book Report by Leah Noble.

Then I must have been stressed out — was it the end of term? — because it appears I turned to my “total escape from the world” standard read, Maeve Binchy, not once but twice! Everyone’s got an author like that, who for them creates a place where they can escape from whatever they’ve got going on in the real world. Some folks prefer outer space and totally made-up worlds for that. Some, like me, prefer places that are more like real life, but with a rosy tinge, a happy ending after some trials and tribulations.

This time around I went with Evening Class and Quentins by Ms. Binchy. If you’re just starting out reading Maeve Binchy, I’d recommend The Glass Lake or Circle of Friends.

"The Power of Nice" by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Book Report by Leah Noble. Then I went a while without reading a book or posting one to my Instagram, likely just because there was too much else going on.

Then one day I was in the Sydney Mines branch of the library, before a doctor’s appointment with some time to spend. I browsed their stacks and saw this slim volume and took it out. The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (who run the ad agency Publicis Kaplan Thaler)is a quick and easy read, but it’s one that I paused from time to time because I wanted to let the bits of wisdom sink in. This book really spoke to me, and reminded me of the validity of simply being nice to others as a smart business and life strategy. I find I can feel anxious about competition and worried that others are getting “ahead” of me, so this book was a good reminder that there is enough to go around, and we actually help ourselves, when we help others.

Excerpt from "The Power of Nice" by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Book Report by Leah Noble. Excerpt from "The Power of Nice" by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Book Report by Leah Noble.

And this line from the book has really stuck with me: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” It struck me that when I check Facebook or email so often in a day, I’m in a way worrying about if I get the credit for my work, if people like me, if they comment. If I just do the work and move on to something else, I get more done.

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley. Book report by Leah Noble. Then there was Flavia. Oh, Flavia! My friend Kate Oland, a librarian and writer, recommended The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, to me. She said it was a mystery but told with an 11-year-old spunky, chemistry-obsessed girl as the protagonist, set in a crumbling English mansion, and just saturated with delicious prose. And she was right! Excerpt from "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley. Book report by Leah Noble. Excerpt from "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley. Book report by Leah Noble.

I found myself not reading ahead on the page (as I often do with mysteries, because I’m impatient and just want to know who did it!) because the sentences were so well-constructed and delightful to read. It was fun to read, yet a mental stretch. A bit like a vigorous walk in a stunning landscape. I’m so glad there is a whole series!

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. Book report by Leah Noble.


Last in this book report is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Elise Blaha Cripe wrote about this book in her most recent book report and I was intrigued. I placed a hold at the library on it and when it came in, I gobbled it up in a weekend. So, so good! It’s about a woman in her fifties with early-onset dementia. That’s not a synopsis that would normally get me to pick a book up — I tend to avoid sad, dark and depressing books — but because Elise loved it, and I tend to like a lot of the stuff Elise recommends, I tried it. And, yeah. Spell-binding. Lisa Genova did such a good job of putting the reader in the mind of Alice, the woman who is slowly losing her memory, and going through the transition from powerful academic to powerless invalid. What remains is love.


Whew! That was a lot of books. I’ll try not to make it so long in between book reports next time!

Any recommendations or books you’ve loved lately?

And, for those of you who’ve recommended I use the service GoodReads, or are thinking of suggesting it, thank you, but I did give it a try and found it wasn’t for me. I think it’s because I spend so much time online or on a computer anyway, with my work, my blog and communication online, that another online service and interface just isn’t attractive to me. I’m not really interested in tracking what I’ve read, either, beyond Instagram and the hashtag #leahreads2014, and this blog. And, I find that I find a good assortment of books just by going to the library or chatting with friends in real life about books, or getting recommendations from blog readers. So that’s why I’m not going to use GoodReads, but it looks like it would have lots of great features for those who would want to use it!

Posted in For Fun, Leah's thoughts, Libraries, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments