give it away



Last week my friend Kelly wrote on her Facebook that she was giving away her books. She wrote out a list of all of them, and each person who wanted to could pick out five. There were like a hundred books on the list, a whole wide variety from non-fiction to fiction, old textbooks, cookbooks and kids’ books. It was fun, to look the list over and pick out just five. It was like shopping! And with a sort of ‘budget,’ too — I could only claim five.

Kelly wrote that she would put your books in a bag with your name on it and leave it in the porch outside her apartment. Pick them up at your leisure, but do it before she had to move out the following week.

When I went to pick up the books I had picked out, I liked seeing all the other plastic bags with people’s names on them. So I took a picture (above).



When I wrote to Kelly to thank her for the books and let her know I had gotten them, I asked her if it was liberating to give away all her books like that. She replied:

“It was! I was getting things ready for a move and thought – how many times have these books moved with me? How many have I not picked up again since the first time I read them (except to pack them in a box and put them on another shelf)? So, I put aside a few reference books (cookbooks, craft books, and a few sentimental favourites) and decided the rest had to go.

“I polled Facebook for the best way to get rid of cherished books. The answer was unanimously to give them away to friends and take pleasure in the fact that they will be read and enjoyed. So, this was my goal: to get the books to as many of my friends as I could and inspire the most reading possible (rather than the lot of them ending up on someone else’s shelf, unread). I decided on a ‘five books per person’ rule and put a list of the books up on Facebook for friends to pick from.

“Making a typed list of the books was enjoyable in and of itself. I had time to pick up each book and remember it. It was comforting to know that even though I was giving the books away, they were in my list and I wouldn’t completely forget about them. My favourite part of the whole process was seeing who picked out which books. There were several times when I thought ‘that is the PERFECT book for that person!’ – but would never have thought to offer it to them out of the blue.

“Those leftover after the giveaway will be distributed to waiting rooms, book swaps, coffee shops, local women’s organizations, and other small libraries – hopefully with a message inside that says “read and release” so the books will continue to make the rounds. I thoroughly recommend a giveaway to anyone feeling weighed down by their book collection and am considering doing the same sort of thing with my 10 year old collection of craft supplies.”

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Cape Breton Acroyoga

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Last week my friend Jacquie Blanchard shared a couple of rad photos with me in an email. She had been up to the Skyline hiking trail in the Park and ran into some friends of hers doing something called acro-yoga. The pictures were from the Facebook group for the people practicing this activity.

I had seen the Facebook group online, “Liked” it, but never really looked into it. Now I went back for a second look.

I got in touch with the group and asked if they would answer a couple of questions for me and the blog. I heard back from John MacPhail, who wrote these answers for me. Photos are credit Brittany MacLeod.

1. Tell me about Cape Breton Acro-Yoga. When did it get started? Is it a weekly class, or a group of interested people? (If it is a weekly class, when and where does it meet, and how much is it to take part?)

We started out about a year and a half ago at the Cape Breton Family YMCA. It was essentially a small group of friends (John MacPhail, Marianne Shalewa, Kendra Sabine and Matt Wadden) who all loved to practice yoga, but wanted something more. We slowly started playing with some basic acroyoga moves and it went from there. We were very rough starting out and it took us a long time to learn the basics, but we had lots of fun. We were only practicing once a week or so initially, but then it became more often as we got more people involved. We grew from 4 to 5 to 6 etc. We have never really promoted it ever until recently. Now, people are asking questions and looking to get involved. It is not set up as an “official” class, it is really more like a group of friends getting together to have fun and get a workout at the same time. We now get together 3-4 times per week and our moves are really progressing. In acroyoga you normally have groups of 3 people; a “base” (person on the bottom….male or female), a “flyer” (person on the top…male or female), and a “spotter” (person who make sure everyone is safe doing the moves).

2. Is Acro-yoga relatively new to the ‘yoga scene’ in general, or has it been around for a while?

Acroyoga is fairly new, especially in this area. Is has a huge following in Montreal (Montreal Acroyoga) and all through the U.S., who have been active for the past decade. They all have detailed websites (just Google “acroyoga” or look for it on YouTube) We all initially learned from YouTube videos which is why it took so long for us (the original 4) to learn. Now, we can teach people the moves in minutes. There are acroyoga classes, courses and workshops all over North America.

3. Why is acro-yoga so much fun? (It certainly looks like fun!)

Acroyoga has a very powerful effect on people. Just about everyone begins by saying “No, I can’t do that”, or “I’m not strong or flexible” etc. But acroyoga is all about TRUST, PLAYFULNESS, and MOVING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE. People gain confidence, and lose a lot of their fears. You are often handing over control of your body to another person. There are easy moves, and very complex routines, so there is something for everyone literally. Those people who join us for one night are usually addicted ! It is so much fun because as you are learning, you are falling on people (safely), bending into silly positions, and doing things you may not have done in 10 or 20 years (i.e. playing on the floor). It is very common to “get the giggles”. We have lots of laughs !!

4. What was the purpose of doing the yoga out on the skyline trail, was it for a particular reason or just for fun?

Getting outdoors is always fun for those who love yoga and acroyoga. You can do both anywhere, anytime. We were just looking a Youtube video a few days ago called “Acro Yoga Flash Mob” where about 20 acroyoga people just set up on the sidewalk by an organic grocery store in San Francisco, and started practicing moves. We want to get out to a bunch of places that are a great hike and also provide a unique backdrop for some amazing acroyoga photos. What better way to promote the practice? The Skyline trail is one of those spots. We were blessed with an absolutely beautiful, clear day where you could see for miles. The sun was out and so were the smiles!

If you’re interested in Acroyoga in Cape Breton, you can check out the Facebook group or email John MacPhail:

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busy busy good life lately


More about these eggs later this week.


The giant forsythia bush in our back yard is *still* in bloom. I love it.


Starting herbs. I can’t wait for giant summer salads.


More plants. I love gardening. I wish I could do it all day long.


Forsythia blooms fallen on the back steps.

Do you have phases in your life like this, where you’re hopping from one day to the next and the time is just flying?

In some ways I love it, and in other ways I hate it. I love having lots on the go, but I hate not having any spare time. I hate thinking, “Well, I *could* write a blog post, or… I could sleep.” (Or make lunch for the next day. Or veg out and watch a movie.)

I suppose that’s part of adult life, though, is balancing all the things. Will there always feel like there is more to do than I have time for? (My guess is yes.)

I’m hoping that once school is done for the summer, next week, that I can settle into more of a routine. (And again have time for stuff I love, like lots of sleep, lounging around and reading, and yes, this blog.)


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‘hyperlocal’ — short stories about Cape Breton neighbourhoods

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 7.28.49 PM “Hyperlocal” is a CBC Canada Writes endeavour that asked listeners across the country to write in with short stories about changes in their neighbourhoods.

If you go to the website (using the link above), you use a Google-map-like interface to find the place you want. Then you see little hot pink markers that show stories (you can see it in the screen shot above there, too). Sue McKay Miller, of Little River, got a Gold Star for her story, “A Dying Neighbourhood.” From that story:

White spruce sprouted like weeds, surrounding old apple trees and concealing the stone root cellars that bear witness to a more domesticated past. Now the spruce trees are growing old, and are, like all the aged – be they tree or coyote, man or moose – more vulnerable to disease and death.

The other stories from Cape Breton are neat, too. And I think you can submit your own pretty easily, as well.

Just a neat thing I thought I’d share. 🙂

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Q+A: Bailey Chapman


On a hike with my boyfriend and little sister. He took so many pictures of me that I ran out of faces so I stuck my tongue out!

1. How old are you?

I am 20 years old.

2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving – age, education background, employment background, hobbies, family, etc).

I am born and raised in Cape Breton! My old high school was so close that I could get up at 8 and be there for 8:30. It was about a bus length away. I grew up in a family that really appreciates music so I have inherited that as well. I enjoy listening to music along with everything I am doing, although I haven’t yet mastered listening to music and reading. Another great interest of mine is movies… I’m just a movie junkie.

3. “What are you up to these days?” I.e. what do you do for a living, what are you working on, are you a student, in the workforce, etc?

These days I am on summer break from Cape Breton University where I am taking a Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies. I am planning to become a social worker. In the off seasons I work and work so I can concentrate on my studies later in the year.

4. What are your favourite CB eateries?

This is a hard one, I love to eat out! The Cedar House is a great place. You sometimes need to wait a while for a seat but the wait is always worth it because you are never let down. I also have a soft spot for the fish and chips from the McCurdy’s Dining Room at the Silver Dart Lodge, where I will actually be picking up some waitressing shifts this summer.

5. What are your favourite things to do outside?

Naturally, being from Cape Breton my favourite thing to do outside is swim.


Reading and boating with my boyfriend, last summer.

6. This summer, what is a typical “day in the life” like for you?

Well I haven’t started work yet and I haven’t been there before so I can’t say much about that yet so let’s just look at a regular day.

I usually eat as soon as I get up because I always wake up hungry. When I eat my breakfast I love to read whatever novel has caught my attention, or the month’s issue of Vanity Fair. Then I usually go for a walk or swim – not necessarily in the same order, but almost always part of my daily routine. Sometimes I do it with friends, other times I do it by myself or with family. When everyone gets home from work we’re most likely to have supper on the back patio – corn on the cob, salad, and burgers come to mind. The best end to the day is going for a swim to freshen up in a river, maybe watch a movie with my brother or boyfriend…or the whole family if we all can agree on one. My favourite part of the summer is going to bed and feeling my cold cotton sheets against my sunburn.


Playing with my water proof camera at the pool last summer.

7. Are you planning on sticking around in CB? Why, or why not?

I haven’t yet decided if I will for school and work – universities in other provinces are calling my name! I’ve always liked the idea of ending back in Cape Breton, maybe when I retire or something.

8. What do you need more of, to truly live your dream here in Cape Breton? (this could be money, support, opportunities, whatever)

In Cape Breton, Baddeck specifically, there needs to be more to do – more bowling alleys and theaters or something. Maybe, to put it more simply, Cape Breton needs more accessible public transit so people living in more rural areas can get out more.

9. What is your favorite memory from childhood?

Waking up and walking up the stairs in my childhood home: I would walk up the stairs looking at the HUGE poster of Albert Einstein you Mum and Dad had pinned super high up on the wall. I remember asking Dad about it one day recently and apparently the poster was just normal sized, but back then I guess I was the size of a poster so you can understand why I thought it was so big. The sun would be shining in the windows and I would hear and smell coffee being made, as well as hear Neutral Milk Hotel being played on the stereo. Because of this memory, to this day I love the smell of coffee and the sound of it percolating; but, I still do not like the taste of coffee or know how to make it. Also, whenever I listen to Neutral Milk Hotel my heart still skips a beat and I feel so happy. I guess you could consider this memory as my happy place.


Playing dress up, about 12 years ago.

10. Finish this sentence: Being from Cape Breton, to me, means…

Being from Cape Breton, to me, means living in the middle of such amazing scenery that sometimes I don’t even realize it; but, when I do my breath is taken away every time without fail.

This Q+A with Bailey is part of an ongoing series of interviews with people associated with Cape Breton in some way – mostly young people, but not necessarily. The complete list of interviews is here.

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what Patsy MacKinnon taught me


Yesterday some of my classmates and I went to visit Patsy MacKinnon in her studio in New Waterford.

My instructor Heather Kennedy MacIsaac arranged it for us as part of the third semester, this little short bit on the end. (The week before we went to see Kenny Boone, and I’ll likely post photos of that at some point.)

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We spent about an hour in Patsy’s studio space, talking to her, and looking at illustrations that she has made. The windows and the skylight brought lots of natural light into the room. Although it’s a small room, Patsy uses it well, displaying her art on the walls, and using high bookshelves to store her art books. She was a gracious hostess, bringing out some chairs for us to sit on.

She shared with us her background: how she used to be a nurse, how she built a studio onto her house about twenty years ago, and took the leap of faith, to leave her career and start a new one, painting. (Her husband said, “You can always go back to nursing.”)

She told us about raising her kids and being there for them, while also carving out time for her work. (“I would set the alarm for 5 am, come and paint, then go get everyone up around 7:30, get them ready for school, them come in and paint more.” Me: “Weren’t you exhausted?!” Patsy: “Of course!”)

She showed us the illustration process, from roughs to finished pieces, and we learned how the process of creating illustrations for a children’s book, and dealing with an art director at a publisher to do so, takes about a year.

It was a fascinating visit with a very neat lady, and I came away from the afternoon with some great bits of wisdom to mull over:

  • Put the time in. Every day.
  • Take the leap of faith.
  • Lean on someone (who also leans on you), like your partner, if you’ve got one, or your dear friends. Trust that they’ll be there for you. But go into the studio, turn on the answering machine, and work.
  • Things change, in every industry. In the nineties she sold lots of reproductions, and now people want more original work. Change is a constant, so get over it. Keep on working.

It just so happens that Patsy has a show on right now at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design. It’s called “Character Reference”.

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back to my old job


The super high-tech Accounts Receivable accordion folder where I keep charge account receipts.

It is both good, and strange, to be back at my previous job for the summer.

Good because… they are great people to work with. Good because I get to walk around a lot, or at least stand at the counter computer (and I’d gotten frighteningly stationary with design work). And good because hey, a paycheque is pretty sweet! You can’t beat money in the bank.

But it’s also strange because I feel like the last eight months that I was in school must have flown by, or something (even though at the time, sometimes, they felt like they crawled). Here I am, again, at the same desk, the same building, by the same lake. It’s that disorienting feeling you get whenever you return to a once-familiar place after being away for a time. Houses, trees, streets, people – all look the same, yet surreally, subtly, slightly different.

I’m also feeling my age. I know, I know, I’m not that old, but I did just turn twenty-nine last month, which in my mind is the waiting room to thirty, and I don’t care what people say, thirty is definitely a turning point. A change. No longer “young”.

(Again, I know, I know, when I’m sixty or even forty I’ll look back at myself at twenty-nine and think, ‘how young I was!’ But for now, I’m the age that I am, and this is how I feel about it.)

But I’m feeling my age because I feel rusty. Which is a feeling I never had before at the start of a term at the marina. I was always pretty able to just jump back in again. (Then again, I never had a break this long from it before. So I guess there’s that.) This time around, though, I’m having to stop, and think, “OK, how did I do this process before? How did I save this or that information, and where did those folders go? Where DO we keep the hose clamps? How DO I give a quote for an outboard motor?” My brain is having to switch gears and I never did learn how to drive a standard, haha.

Anyway, despite the busy-ness of being back to full time work, being still in school (independent projects until the end of the month, plus a neat group project), having a couple of design clients of my very own, aaaaand trying to get some me-time in there too… there are some neat pieces and Q+As in the works for the blog. I may not be posting as often as I used to, but I’m still here.

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