Friday, 7 December 2018

To Everything, there is a Season...

To Everything, there is a Season...

This morning, we left our latest house/pet sit, in Nova Scotia and enjoyed the ferry crossing to Saint John, New Brunswick. 

The Ferry from Digby, N.S. to Saint John, N.B. 
Us on the deck with snowstorm in the background

After an overnight stop in Edmundston, we'll be heading for Quebec City tomorrow for two nights, spending some time with our treasured friends from Vermont, Eileen and Dick. 

Dick and Eileen - our Vermontian 'family'!

The following day, we’ll be setting out for Ottawa, to reconnect with John and Dianne, our friends from Elliot Lake – who put us on to this house/pet sitting adventure in the first place.

Dianne and John - dear friends from Elliot Lake

Our final sit of the year will be in Huntsville, Northern Ontario, over the Christmas period, before we return home just before New Years. We’re looking forward to meeting Phil and Heather, and their two dogs, Holly and Maya, and spending the Holidays in their new home.

This afternoon, while on the ferry, I was overwhelmed with a strong feeling of joy, and a sense of gratitude for the life we live. It really seems, at times, that we are on a continuous holiday, going from sit to sit, getting our animal fix, reuniting with friends, and meeting new ones. We both feel such appreciation for the amazing people who have come into our lives – new acquaintances that seem to become new friends so quickly, and those folks of longer standing, who have been supportive of us from the early years, including members of our own families.

The ‘crème de la crème’ for me is that I get to share this with the love and light of my life. Mark and I share so many ideals and dreams, and love traveling together. 

Mark is the love and light of my life!

We especially treasure the times when we are driving on a long journey, reminiscing about previous experiences, appreciating what we are seeing, hearing, and doing at the present time, and discussing possible plans for our future  – and our new car makes the experience even more enjoyable!

Our dream car - Toyota Rav 4! (We've had our eye on one of these for many years).

This feeling of extreme happiness was tinged with a little sadness as I realized that there are so many people out there who are not able to experience this joy for one reason or another. Momentarily, I felt a little guilty for being so happy, and I wish there was something I could do to help others experience the same exhilaration for life. 

Then I remembered the undying the words of the song, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…
…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

I remembered that, this time last year, things weren’t so rosy, as I faced some serious health issues; also, there have been times in my earlier life when it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We all have our challenges – some obvious, some hidden. Things happen which we didn’t bargain for, and these offer us an opportunity to appreciate the better times.

The philosophy that we have embraced teaches us to move, little by little, step by step, towards seeing the goodness in life and in the people around us. Spending time in nature, and drinking in its beauty, helps us to focus upon the positive, and to bring those negative moments into perspective. 

Our last view of the lighthouse at Point Prim, Digby, N.S.
(The light shining in the fog is symbolic for this article)

We drove until we found a pleasing view by which we could eat our lunch

Appreciating the clouds in the sky, and the surrounding rocks and trees on our journey

We don’t always succeed in doing this, but we never give up taking those little steps, encouraging one another when setbacks occur. It is not always easy, but we feel that, if we look for it, we will find a way to choose to focus on something that makes us feel a little better, and then a little better, until we have switched our attention to appreciation of what we have.  

Not always easy, but well worth making the effort

Life is not perfect, and will always offer contrast into our experience; but with practice, we can lift our spirits, negotiate the troughs, and ride the waves, once again.

I would like to share a very personal story.

When my dear beloved brother, Derek, became seriously ill, four years ago, I remember sitting alone with him at the kitchen table in his home. He was reading the newspaper and I reached over to him, touched his arm, and told him that, although we try to focus on the positive, I wanted him to know that I was heartbroken over what he was going through, and the inevitable outcome. His response to me was one that I will never forget. 

He told me that he understood how I felt, but that Mark and I should not put our lives on hold for him. He reminded me that he had lived his life, and he wanted us to do the same. I promised him that we would do just that – live life to the fullest – but that we would make adjustments, out of love, so that we could spend more time with him. 

I will always treasure that special moment in our relationship, when our hearts met and our watering eyes held each other in a gaze of mutual respect and admiration.

Me and my brother, Derek, when he visited us in Elliot Lake (May, 2014)

My beautiful brother, Derek. (R.I.P. March 19th, 2015)

Our philosophy teaches us that the best thing we can do for others is to give them the example of our own alignment so that, in witnessing our joy, they can be uplifted towards their own. 

We are constantly being reminded by our friends that they live vicariously through our adventures and that the pictures and comments we post on social media give them a feeling of well-being… and that makes us feel very humble and grateful for their kindness in sharing that with us.

We’d like to thank our family members, and all of our friends, both new and longer-standing, for continually supporting us and helping to make our lives even richer.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

A Little Bit 0’ Faerie Magic!

A Little Bit 0’ Faerie Magic!

If you can get to the ‘One of a Kind’ show in Toronto (which runs from November 22nd – December 2nd, we would invite you to visit our friends, Sarah and Alan, who will be running booth number B49 – The Sugar Bush Fairies. We are currently house/pet sitting for them so that they could be present at this amazing annual show.

Their story is one that will make you believe in magic!

Back in 2007, we met Alan and Sarah while we were attending a Spiritualist Church in Orillia, Ontario. They both met each other at the same place. Coincidentally, they had both embraced the philosophy behind the Law of Attraction, and started to visualize a life-long partner for themselves. We were there to watch them being drawn towards each other, and to enjoy spending time with them in their new life together as a couple, which began the following year, 2008.

They moved into a lovely home in Sugar Bush, just north of Barrie. Knowing them to be fans of the whimsical, and as very gentle, spiritual people, we presented them with a house-warming gift which Mark had found in a gift catalogue. It was a fairy door, which they could put in their garden.

The original fairy door that we gave to them as a housewarming gift

At this point,  they had not been finding fulfillment in their employment – Alan as furniture designer, and Sarah as an educational assistant. They were inspired by the idea of the fairy door, and did some research, finding that there was one person making and distributing them in the U.S.A. They realized that there was an opportunity here, and so, being entrepreneurs, they decided to produce their own line of fairy doors on a part-time basis. Each unique door would be handcrafted in wood, and personally designed. Working together as a team, they found success beyond their imagination. So much so, that (once again, utilizing the principles of the Law of Attraction) they decided to quit their jobs and move into the home-based business on a full-time basis. The results have been astounding.

Back in 2011, they decided to get married, and we were honoured to be a part of their wedding. Mark sang a version of the song, ‘Somebody’ (by Depeche Mode), and I accompanied him on acoustic guitar. It was a fun event, and it was a delight to see a couple so much in love, and to be taken up into that experience.

Mark singing at their wedding, with me accompanying on acoustic guitar

Our paths didn’t cross very often over the next few years as life took us in different directions. We always kept in touch via social media, and would occasionally meet with them, and other friends, at a restaurant. We had also purchased a couple of doors for ourselves, which we keep in our display case at home.

In 2015, we were doing a house/pet sit for some friends in Peterborough, Ontario. During this time, we took a trip to Warkworth – a small town we had not visited before. It was a surprise to us that, in one of the gift stores, we came across a display of fairy doors from Sugar Bush Fairies!!!

Display in Cheeky Bee's Gift Shop, Warkworth, Ontario
(We actually wrote about this in a previous blog. See: Warkworth - a Hidden Gem!

We immediately contacted Sarah and Alan and told them what we had found, and they informed us that they had over 70 outlets in North America – and shipped all over the world! We had no idea just how successful they had become! In fact, their success was so great, that they were thinking of expanding. However, the cost of such expansion, in Ontario, was not an attractive one; so, they moved to Digby, Nova Scotia, in October, last year. (They had been to the province several times, and liked what they saw – especially the more ‘laid-back’ environment, which suited their personalities – and their business – more appropriately).

Earlier this year, we were acting as tour guides for our friends from Vermont, and we delighted in showing them the beauty of the shores of Lake Superior. As part of our ‘tour’, we took them into the Agawa Crafts and Canadian Carver, a unique gift shop near Pancake Bay. To our delight, we discovered a display from Sugar Bush Fairies, and were smitten by a design of a British Telephone Kiosk. We bought it to add to our collection.

Announcement of a new design

Our new purchase, in August of this year

Another interesting anecdote: back in March, this year, we were doing another house/pet sit for the same friends in Peterborough, and we had invited friends over for a meal. (We had obtained permission to do this, of course!) Neil and Helena were asking about our plans for the rest of the year and we told them about our house/pet sit in Nova Scotia. We also shared the story of how Alan and Sarah had started their business. Helena blew us away when she said that, only the day before, Neil (who does carpentry as a hobby) had been asked, by one of his friends, if he would be willing to make a jewelry box as a gift to his wife for their 50th anniversary. He told Neil that he was going to order some fairy doors from a business in Nova Scotia. Sure enough, it was from Alan and Sarah that this purchase was going to be made! We were all gobsmacked by that coincidence! (It should be added that Neil is also an excellent craftsman - as you can see from the finished product below).

Jewelry box fashioned by Neil, using the fairy doors

Other side of Jewelry box

When we arrived here, a week ago, they were both extremely busy getting ready for the One of a Kind show. They have transformed their basement into a studio/workshop, and have an office on the ground floor. They kindly showed us the workshop and we were amazed at the amount of time and work that goes into every fairy door production. 

Wooden slats and basic door shapes made from templates

Part of the workshop in the basement

Tools for the job!

Sanding machines

Paints that Sarah uses to decorate the doors

Some door ready for mounting

Doors being attached to their frames

Every box has to be made up and printed

Boxes ready to be filled

Shipment ready!

The happy couple doing what they love most!

We were also in admiration of the efficiency with which they run their business, from the original order through to the delivery. Even on the way to Toronto, they were busy at each hotel stop, putting finishing touches on their products, ready for the show! Their dedication and sheer hard work is obvious – as is their total enjoyment with what they are doing.

Alan, still prepping for the show at their hotel in Cornwall, Ontario

They have spent the last two days getting their booth ready. 

Arriving at their allotted booth space

Setting out the booh

Background covering

Creating the environment

Nearly there...

This is what their booth looked like last year. They told us that it will be similar this year, so you'll easily recognize it
One of the designs I have seen in their catalogue, is the Dr. Who Tardis Fairy Door. I am hoping that Mark will allow me to get one of these! 

They also have a line of doors for Harry Potter fans, as well as a series based on the Hobbit stories. 

We are thrilled to have been a small part of this success story, and we know that they are going to have a huge success in Toronto. This will be the fifth time that they will be hosting a booth at this event.

If you are able to attend this show, visit them at Booth B49. Be sure to mention us, and say hi to them from us!

Here are some links that give more information about Sugar Bush Fairies:

Article in the Digby Courier  (this is really good, because Alan and Sarah get to tell their own story)

e-mail address:
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Ferries, Lighthouses - and a Balancing Rock!

Ferries, Lighthouses - and a Balancing Rock!

One of the delights about house/pet sitting is that you get to explore the local areas - especially when you have a cute doggy sitting happily in the back seat! 

On Monday, we set off for a trip along the Digby Neck and Islands Scenic Drive to Brier Island, via Long Island - with a few stops on the way. 

The first stopping place had been suggested by our hosts - a really nice beach at Sandy Cove. Apparently, Holly loves to romp on this beach but, when we got there, we saw a woman with another dog off-leash, so gave it a miss - with a promise to return another time. 

Whale Cove was very small, and a little run down, so we didn't stay there for long. However, we could imagine that it would be a great place to see whales when in the right season. 

Whale Cove

It didn't take us long to reach the fishing village of East Ferry, which is where we were going to take the ferry over to the small town of Tiverton, on Long Island. 

Ramp to the ferry at East Ferry Harbour

The village of East Ferry, from the ferry.

Tiverton Wharf

Parking the car, we left for the trek to the Boar's Head Lighthouse, a 20 minute, uphill hike. 

An uphill trek!

Holly waits patiently for the old fogeys to catch up!

About one third of the way in, we noticed a small trail to a lookout point, so we thought we'd investigate. 

We're glad we did as the views were well worth the detour. It would be a great place for a picnic, that's for sure. We could see the top of lighthouse a little further on, and so returned to the main path. 

Fishing Boat returning to Tiverton Harbour

Boar's Head Lighthouse - seen from the Lookoff

The Boar's Head Lighthouse is very well kept and situated on a point looking out over the Bay of FundyBuilt in 1957, it is the second lighthouse on the site. It sits on Long Island, above the Petit Passage, a narrow pass that connects the Bay of Fundy to St. Mary’s Bay. Like most of the lighthouses we are seeing, this is fully working, and the light may be seen flashing 24/7. 

Boar's Head Lighthouse

Chuckled at the name of Murray Outhouse - one of the Lighthouse keepers!

Looking out over the bay, we glimpsed a fishing vessel in the distance. Our visit, here, has given us both a better appreciation of those amazingly brave fishermen who battle all weathers out on the ocean to bring in the scallops, lobsters, and fish which we so easily take for granted. 

Fishing vessel seen way out in the ocean

Returning to the harbour, we made out way to the Balancing Rock Trail, ready for our second hike of the day. 2 1/2 km long, the trail was well-groomed, and had interpretive signs along the way. 

At the end of the trail, there are a series of 235 steps down to the lookout platform from where you can see great views of St. Mary's Bay, as well as the Balancing Rock, itself. 

The Balancing Rock Trail - begins

235 steps on the stairway down to the viewing platform

The stairs gave way to an enclosed boardwalk which allows the visitor to take in the awesome views across St. Mary's Bay and over to the mainland, as well as the Balancing Rock, itself.

Nature never fails to amaze us as we took in this narrow column of basalt just balancing on its tip! 4 feet wide, and 20 feet tall, it just sits their defying gravity by maintaining its equilibrium for all to see. Mark had been looking at this on the internet for months, and was so excited to be here to see it for real, finally! We loved the sign as we were exiting the trail. 

Continuing south on the Scenic Drive, we reached the southernmost tip of Long Island at the small town of Freeport

The ferry between Freeport and Westport

Freeport, from the ferry

Fishing hut at Freeport

Seasonal Restaurant at Freeport

While waiting for the ferry, we watched a truck bringing piles of lobster traps to the harbour, backing up along a precarious, rickety pier, and unloading them at the end. Apparently, the lobster season starts soon, and these guys were helping with the preparations. 

The three men in this truck backed up onto a precarious pier to unload several lobster traps

As with the earlier ferry, the ramp down to the boat was quite steep, and had a wall on only one side, with the open water on the other. I asked one of the ferrymen if a vehicle had ever slipped off the ramp when it was icy. He told me that this had, in fact, happened to the truck of a fellow worker, but it was not in the winter; apparently, his transmission failed, and he ended up with a submerged truck, and wounded pride! 

Steep ramp to the ferry - this one, at least, had a partial barrier

On the short journey over to Brier Island, we could see the lighthouse on St. Peter's Island, which is uninhabited, and is only accessible by a small boat, so we knew that we wouldn't get much closer than where we were on the ferry. 

Peter's Island Lighthouse - from the ferry

The boat landed us at Westport, another of this province's many fishing villages/towns. We paid a visit to the local grocery store, in which one could purchase a whole variety of necessities, above and beyond food, and which served the residents of the island. Grabbing a warm coffee, and some goodies, we headed off for the first of the two lighthouses we had come to visit. 

The Northern Lighthouse stands next to the Westport Search and Rescue Station, which is comprised of two buildings - the SAR itself, and the adjacent garage. The Lighthouse looks out over the Bay of Fundy, and the Grand Passage - the waterway between Long Island and Brier Island. 

Northern Lighthouse

Sea and Air Rescue Centre

The Western Lighthouse, or Brier Island Lighthouse, also stands with a view of the Bay of Fundy, but also guards the northwest entrance to St. Mary's Bay. It is almost surrounded by basalt rock coastline, and has been unmanned since 1987. It affords the most astounding views of the ocean, and we were torn between waiting for the sunset, and catching the next ferry. 

Western Lighthouse (or Brier Island Lighthouse)

In the end, the latter option won out, but we were able to catch a glimpse of the lowering sun as we made our way back to the harbour. 

 Returning to Westport harbour, we had about 20 minutes to wait for the boat. Had we been there in season, we would probably have availed ourselves of a little repast at the 'Just Above Water Cafe', situated right next to the ferry. 

 The hourly ferry service, which is run by the province, is open 24/7, connecting both Long Island, and Brier Island to the mainland. It's an excellent service and we found out that, after midnight, the ferries dock on one side, but will cross to pick up a vehicle - even if it's just one car!

All in all, it was an excellent day trip, though we were tired when we got back to our home base. It was a 'good tired', though!

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