Last weekend: stepping out in Halifax

So last weekend I headed off-island. I actually do get kind of a funny feeling when I drive onto the causeway and off Cape Breton. It’s a little twinge as if I’m driving away from the home of a loved one.

First up was Truro and the annual banquet of the Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council. I have no ties to this organization, except for my friends Meghan Farrell and Mark Sparrow (those with good memories will remember I interviewed Mark right here on this blog) who work for it. The reason I went is that the guest speaker was supposed to be Erin Brockovitch – the real one, not Julia Roberts – but by the time I had everything planned (my going on to Halifax, my hotel room, the time booked off work), she had cancelled due to a family emergency, and the replacement speaker, Reggie Love, sounded pretty cool too. So I went.

Then I went on to Halifax and stayed with a friend and saw some other friends. You know, good times!

Also, I’m thinking semi-seriously about getting some Cosmic Bingo going here on the island. Anyone want to take that idea and run with it?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

hello summer, my old friend

It’s the first day of Summer!

Today on her blog, LoveLife, Kal Barteski wrote: “In that ever-present effort to be in balance there is always something that slips a little.”

Sing it, sister!

Right now, for me, the things that are slipping a little are: having long chats on the phone with girlfriends, taking long walks, and reading actual books (instead of emails and blogs).

However, I did pick up Bossypants, by Tina Fey, at the library, and am whipping right through it. That’s my litmus test, really, for a Favourite Book: if I can’t bear to put it down. If I stay up a little longer just to read it. If I read it while flossing my teeth.

Other books on this list have included:

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Winter of our Disconnect by Susan Maushart
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Do tell: what have been your “can’t put it down” reads?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dear 2012 High School Graduates…

This June marks ten years since I graduated from Memorial High School. That kind of blows my mind.

It’s almost time for this year’s graduating class to cross the stage to get their diplomas, so I’ve been thinking back over the last ten years, and thinking about what advice I’d give my 18-year-old self, if I could. It’s advice which I’d also like to offer to the 2012 graduating class from Cape Breton’s high schools.

You are enough. Just as you are.

Trust your instincts. Your gut, your deep-down, inner voice.

You are smart enough, pretty enough, buff enough, tough enough, and deeply, deeply loved.

Do something you enjoy, that’s just for you, every day if you can. People will say “do what you love,” and you might be tempted to shrug it off, but if you get into the habit of it, it’s a habit that will sustain your happiness down the road more than anything you can buy.

Hard work and stubbornness will you get somewhere in life, it’s true, but combine those traits with something you really love, and that will be self-sustaining. It will propel itself, and propel you. That’s what passion is.

There is no rush, by the way. Take your time. Work instead of go to school, if you want to. You won’t incur debt and you’ll learn an incredible amount anyway. The schools will always be there.

Everyone will give you advice. (Hey, including me!) Some of it will conflict. Take what you want. Leave the rest. Decide for yourself. It will all be OK.

Don’t just go with what the school’s guidance counsellor recommends. Or your parents. Or your friends. Find out about at least one other option. Have options. (There are millions out there.)

If you’re in pain, a good therapist or counsellor is worth her weight in gold. So is a good friend. So is downtime.

The world is an amazing place filled with magic and cool places. There is room in it for all of you. (Every part of you. And each and every one of you, plural.)

Travel if you want to. Stay home if you want to. But no matter what, trust yourself and trust that you’ll find what you need. Because ten years on, that’s what I’ve found stays true, over and over again. The world keeps on surprising me, with people and experiences I could never have dreamed of.

And remember, every adult out there is just as freaked out by change as you are. No one has everything figured out! We all have to deal with the unexpected, the unknown.

So to sum up: you’re fine the way you are. In fact, you’re incredible.

And go forth.

Posted in Education, Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Belated Happy Father’s Day

I was travelling this past weekend and didn’t get a chance to post something for Father’s Day.

So, a belated Happy Day to all the dads out there! You rock.

This is a pic of me and my Dad on my second birthday way back in 1986. I was loving the chocolate pudding, can you tell?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Frugal Friday: How To Make Paint out of Milk

Today’s post is from local blogger Angela Mercer-Penny. Her blog is called Five on Nine Farm, which is where she originally posted this piece. She lives outside of Sydney and also owns Sweet Biscuit Bath and Body , on Charlotte St.

There comes a point when spending money gets exhausting. I’m not much of a shopper, but I like deals, and I love secondhand, but I’d rather make it myself if I can.

My handy husband just finished building me a second chicken coop, and he did it out of pallets. We had a limited budget, and wanted to keep the cost down as much as we could. When I calculated the square footage for painting, I was going to need 3 gallons to cover it. Even on sale, it was $100 in paint. That was too much.

Looking for a deal I went from store to store looking for mis-tints – you know, those half price cans that were tinted but not purchased. The colors were horrible, or they were oil and I wanted latex, or they were interior and I needed exterior. It just wasn’t working the way I hoped.

That left me using my creative brain for a minute. I thought, couldn’t I make something? I had heard of milk paint before. Could I actually make it myself?

Of course I could!

There are a few recipes online, some using just milk, some using vinegar and milk and some using cottage cheese. I opted for the milk recipe, but had to modify along the way, as you’ll see.

The recipe calls for lime, so I picked up a bag at a garden center. It’s 15kg and cost $4.97. You don’t need very much of it, so be prepared to have lots left over for your lawn. You have to by lime, not quicklime. In this recipe you will use about 1/4 cup of lime per 2L milk.

Next is the milk. Buy skim and leave it sit at room temperature, at least overnight. I mentioned I had to modify the recipe, and this is where. The milk should be curdled for the easiest and thickest paint to work with. Empty the milk into a large plastic container and add 1/2 cup of vinegar per litre of milk. Leave it somewhere warm-ish for a few hours.

I used an old 11L ice cream container for mixing.

Add the measured lime into the container.

Add enough of the curdled milk to dissolve the lime, and stir, stir, stir. When it’s really creamy add the remainder of the milk.

Next it’s time to add the color. You have a few options for color.

  1. Oxides and/or natural pigments. These give you the best coverage. You can buy them at craft stores.
  2. Acrylic paint, like those little tubes of tole paints. They work, but you will have to seal them if exposing to the elements.
  3. Latex paint. You can add in a bit of already tinted latex paint for color. Some stores sell small cans of “testers” for about $5 or $6. Get the color you want mixed and add it in.

The colors that you add in will be a bit more diluted once in the paint, so prepare for this when choosing your color.

I started with acrylic in green, hated it, and added black oxide instead.

I put the oxide in a ziploc bag with a bit of cornstarch as a thickener and added a few cups of my paint. Then I sealed the ziploc bag and squished it in my hands until it was thoroughly mixed, then poured it back into the paint.

This is the coop “Before”, front view:

Back view.

Although it’s not truly an “after’ yet, as I still have to do the trim, I wanted to show you anyway. This is two coats, and it has awesome coverage.

I’ve decided that I am going to do a linseed oil wash over the entire coop once the trim is painted. It’ll seal and help protect the paint from the weather.

A few things that I’ve learned along the way…

  • The paint feels different than latex paint. It’s much thinner, but thickens up more if you continue stirring. I did the first coat, put it in the fridge, and applied the second coat the next day. The second day the paint was much thicker.
  • It is extremely more cost effective. This coop is 400 square feet, and as I mentioned it would have cost $100 to buy paint. I painted this for approximately $17.
  • Use a natural bristle brush, not a synthetic one. I painted the entire coop with a cheap $1.00 brush from Walmart. I tried a roller but this porous chipboard wasn’t loving the roller, so by hand and brush it was.

Overall: This was really easy, like super easy. I’m now mentally preparing to buy a cow and go into the Milk Paint business. Maybe…

Thanks Angela! If you liked this post, check out more Frugal Friday posts on this blog here and here . Erika Shea, our regular Frugal Friday writer, will be back soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments


This is the Community Garden I’ve talked about before. It’s continuing to take shape. I like the tiled-sort of bricks between the beds. Very wheelchair-accessible, and also pretty. Nice!

Myself and my friend Kate were sitting there at the garden, eating our lunch together, and Graham drove by. (He’s a Baddeck person. I like to call him the “one-man parade”.) He slowed and stopped and chatted with us.

“Hey!” I said. “Can I take your picture?”


“Can I put it on the Internet?”


“You don’t give a crap, do you?”

“Nope.” Then, he said, “Take a picture of the front, I got a Ford symbol above the other one.”

So, I did.

Then, these last few photos were taken Tuesday night. I was just loving that evening light, how it comes in over the blueberries and in through the woods. My cat was loving it, too!

So, lately! I’m…

Learning… that no-one is perfect and has it all together – not even me, ha HA! (I’ll have a great day and feel on top of the freaking world, and then… my mood shifts and suddenly I’m grumpy and nothing could ever be right. Funny how that happens. Oh, being human. It ain’t for sissies.) Learning that things change, always, always. Everything is in a state of flux. Even minute to minute, even if you can’t feel it.

Thinking… about blogs, blogs, blogs! Ever since I launched myself on this crazy “Dream Big” adventure, it’s nearly all I think about. And now I’m taking an online course from Elise about design for bloggers, as well as reading books on blogs, and reading lots of other blogs… then add to that my constant emailing with people about future blog posts (like for Q+As and meet-ups and stuff), and writing by hand in my spiral-bound notebook, all my various ideas for future content… and man, I’ve got blogs on the brain! It feels GOOD, but … a little obsessive. But, I keep on just trusting that it’s OK. That a painter who just wants to freaking paint already feels the same thing. Like, “get outta my way and let me do my thing!

Feeling… rather good. Damn lucky, really. Feeling in love and happy – which is kind of a surprise. I guess I’d really believed that I’d never find someone who it would all work out with! I’m not sure why I believed this, but I did. And I’m feeling the fresh summer air on my skin. Heck yeah! Do you find the summer around here feels like a surprise, too? Like something you thought would never come?

Eating… probably not as well as I should. Some local foods, though, so that feels virtuous! Like lettuce and bread and carrots from last year. Also, in the not-local category, chocolate bars. And peanut butter from the jar. It tastes better that way, right?

Drinking… red wine. Vodka and cranberry with ice cubes. The odd beer. Lots of water. Coffee too.

Loving… the green green grass (mowed or unmowed). The evening light. My honey, the awesome Adam. My kitty cat.

Wanting… it to be beach weather already!!! I can’t wait to start on my beach adventures.

Needing… more time in the day, because I work eight hours and then I blog for a couple more and then darn it, I still want to go for a walk! And, make a wholesome supper, and have good catch-up chats with friends, and, and, and… oh my.

Trying… to be in the moment and happy with what I’ve got. (It’s so easy to get distracted.)

Playing… with my iPhone. Angry Birds, and Solitaire. And of course taking lots and lots of pictures! Loving playing with Instagram, too.

Planning… a trip to Halifax this weekend to see my besties there! I’m anticipating lots of fun and goofiness. Also planning a trip to Eastern Passage for Canada Day. We stay with Adam’s cousin and it’s a nice laidback time with his family. But mostly I’m trying not to plan much! Trying to have more time unplanned, open, ready to be spontaneous with.

What are you learning, thinking, feeling, eating, drinking, loving, wanting, needing, trying, playing, planning these days?

Posted in Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

local tunes: John Gill

I cannot stop playing this video. The song is so good! It’s catchy and upbeat, but then when I read the lyrics, it’s haunting – it’s exactly how it can feel, to be young here in Cape Breton.

i need a little help acquiring a reason
to finally leave this place
so many of the ones that i have come to know here
have found another space

so feign a sense that you belong here when you don’t
recall the things that beckon you to stay
when every fiber in you screams to leave

i’ve got too much on my mind these days
you’re not fooling anyone this time around

i need to calm my nerves, need to sit back and
re-evaluate my plan
because now every time i try to make a little progress
i get knocked the fuck back down

so feign a sense that you belong here when you don’t
recall the things that beckon you to stay
when every fiber in you screams to leave

Then there is this one. His voice is so rich, the words so sweet. Listening to this, I picture myself sitting with friends around a campfire, maybe half into a delicious cider or beer, listening to someone play tunes, and staring into the coals and feeling immensely happy.

wash your hands clean of the trouble you’ve seen
i feel like we’re worse off for it
time wears us thin but we make progress here

we want the best for ourselves and the rest
we’re not the selfish ones here
forgotten tastes of an old life will help us breathe

look to the sky when you’re lost in the night
ask the stars which way is right
they tell me they can see for miles

I’ve grown fonder of
things i once took for granted
tell me sweet things
make me remember

so pack up your things, and promise me this
you’ll follow me where i roam, dear,
give me your hand, don’t let go

lay your head down, and make not a sound
remember the secrets we shared
we don’t have time to wonder what comes next

I’ve grown fonder of
things i once took for granted
tell me sweet things
make me remember

About the musician: John Gill has been writing and playing music in Cape Breton for around 5 years. During that time he’s written a large number of songs, mostly in the folk/indie vein. Front man for the Sydney band Heartwood Slacks, Gill is influenced by all kinds of music, from the flatpickin’ folkies of yesterday, to today’s folk-influenced indie, as well as blues, roots, and rock music. For booking contact .

You can also find him on these platforms:

Posted in Art | Tagged , | Leave a comment