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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Elliot Lake KNOWS how to Celebrate - especially at Christmas!

Elliot Lake KNOWS how to Celebrate 

- especially at Christmas!

When we first moved up to Elliot Lake, just three-and-a-half years ago, we knew we'd love the surrounding scenery, and we'd already met a few of the townsfolk and had been impressed by the welcome and sense of belonging that exuded from them. However, we were really surprised in other ways. 

The very first Canada Day fireworks display left us feeling stunned at the sheer size and quality of the event. We thought it would be over within 5 minutes, but were treated by tremendous light displays that continued for nearly 30 minutes! It was every bit as good as any display we'd seen in the GTA. It felt like half the population had turned out to Westview Park to share in the occasion. We didn't know a single soul at that gathering, but had the feeling that we'd make a few friends from among them. Little did we know just how many people would embrace us and take us into their hearts. 

In the time we have been here, we have learned that this city knows how to celebrate - and Christmas is no exception. 

We'd spent a busy day in the Soo, and didn't arrive back until 5:30, leaving us just one hour to have dinner and get ready to go out again to watch the Santa Claus Parade, here in town. Grabbing our friend, Michelle - who lives in our building - we parked near to Kathy's Brew HaHa! and went inside to enjoy a warm drink before the parade was due to start. Kathy had decided to extent her hours so that everyone could enjoy some warmth on this chilly evening. 

So many people gathered at Kathy's Brew HaHa

We were greeted by a gentleman who was giving out free hot chocolate, popcorn and cookies to the kids, and the place was full people doing the same as us - fueling up ready for the big event. We met a few people we knew and sat with them to enjoy our brew. 

At the appointed time, we ventured outside and found a spot from where we would be able to get a good view of the floats as they passed by. Again, we thought there would be about half a dozen floats and a few organizations that would be represented. Boy, were we wrong about that!

While waiting, we saw a couple of friends in the crowd and got chatting with them, and also spotted several others with whom we had become acquainted. 

Vicki, Brandon, and their beautiful family

We were also delighted to see so many beautiful dogs, so we had our doggy fix, too!

The crowd excitedly awaits the arrival of the parade.

Sure enough, a fire truck sounded it's horn, announcing the arrival of the parade.  (Our friend, William Elliot - a well-loved individual in town - knows how to grab one's attention!!). 

A fire truck announces the beginning of the parade

Antique fire truck - driven by William Elliot - the 'man about town'

What followed left us with our mouths wide open! Float after float passed by, interspersed by various groups on foot proudly displaying their banners. The floats were so festively decorated and the coloured lights were dazzling. The women, men, and children of Elliot Lake were all having fun - and it showed. 

Lots of dogs were walking in the parade

We thought the Animal Shelter's 'Dalmatian Car' was cool

Illuminated Peace Dove

The Grinch makes his appearance

Great Igloo float

Proud to have our Pride group represented!

Charlie Brown and Snoopy - wouldn't be the same without them!

Canada Post - serving us proudly!

One of many dogs enjoying the parade

'Howie' - suitably dressed and driven by Greg

A walking mailbox

Jolly Nutcracker

(Unfortunately, our cell phone does not take night pictures very well, so some of these pics are a little blurry. Nevertheless, you'll be able to get the feel of celebration from them. Our short video clips are much clearer, so we've included a few of them, here). 

This snowman was made completely out of rubber tires.

Villa Francaise des Jeunes is a French-language Middle school and High school

Finally, the Big Man, Himself, made his appearance and wished us all the Merriest of Christmases!

Santa Arrives!

After the parade ended, we popped back in to Kathy's Brew HaHa! as we noticed that our friend, Ann Russ Foy, had joined Kathy behind the counter. Rushing up to hug her, we noticed that there were a few women dressed the same and realized that Ann's singing group, The Jewels of Harmony, were about to perform! Talk about lucking in! We were treated to 20 minutes of cheery Christmas songs, starting with 'It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas' and finishing with 'Silent Night' (an all time favourite of ours). They also did an encore of 'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer' at the request of a young man who bravely ventured forward from his table. 

'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas'

'Silver Bells' - with audience participation

'Carol of the Bells'

On the way home, we couldn't resist taking a few pics of various houses about town which have done themselves proud with their decorative light displays.

This whole experience encapsulates the extraordinary spirit of the people of Elliot Lake. After facing the challenges of the closing of the mines over several years, and the tragic collapse of the mall, back in 2012, this city is quietly busy rebuilding itself, which speaks of the indomitable courage of the townsfolk. There is a determination to celebrate themselves at every opportunity which is a fitting way to honour the memory of those who lost their lives on that fateful day in June, 2012, and of the heroic miners whose names are enshrined in the Miners' Memorial, on Horne Lake. 

A memorial in Elliot Lake to the two women who lost their lives in the roof collapse at the Algo Centre Mall

(Courtesy of

Mining Monument and Memorial honours the community's mining legacy.

(Courtesy of

Elliot Lake stands as a beacon of hope - just like Christmas, itself. It's people can be proud of what they are accomplishing - and we feel honoured to be living among them. 


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Thursday, 1 December 2016

When Two Things You Love Merge Together - Magic Happens!

When Two Things You Love Merge Together - Magic Happens!

I'm not sure when it was that I started to become passionate about trains and I couldn't point to a particular time and place where I realized how much I loved them. In fact, my first clear memory of trains was being scared witless when the steam engine arrived at the station and let out its huge 'hiss' after coming to a stop! 

Steam trains hissing when they came to a halt - used to make me hide behind my mom!

(Courtesy of

Fear soon caved in to being mesmerized by the smell of the train, the rhythmic clickety-click, clickety-click as it traveled over the gaps between the lengths of rail, and the sheer pleasure of leaning against the window to watch the up-and-down movement of the telegraph wires as we sped past them on the journey.  

I used to love watching the telegraph wires from the train window

(Courtesy of

Growing up on farms in the U.K., our family could not support owning a car, so we relied upon public transport. For the same reasons, traveling by rail was not something we could do on a regular basis. So, when the rare opportunity came along, getting on a train became a fascination, and - until experiencing flying in a plane for the first time - remained my favourite mode of transport. A promised train trip to Southend-on-Sea, Tilbury, or London would be the cause of eager anticipation for several days leading up to it. (See our earlier blog). Even today, the prospect of getting on a train still fills me with excitement- and just seeing a passenger train rattle by makes my heart dance.

The other 'love' which the title refers to is the whole experience of Christmas - especially the build up to the event. For me, there's nothing quite like the gradual increase of excitement as the Big Day arrives - interspersed with the writing of cards, listening to carols and favourite Christmas songs, appreciating the aroma of baking mince pies and sausage rolls, watching new and traditional seasonal movies for the umpteenth time and, yes, even the arrival of the first snowfall.

But the most enchanting thing, for me, is the Christmas tree, with its decorations which evoke the most treasured memories, and especially the coloured lights which whisk me right back to the magic of Christmas as a child. I don't really care too much about presents (though I'd never refuse them!!!); but I do want a tree to adorn the living room, lovingly dressed with lights sparkling out of the window. 
Taken a couple of years ago, my nephew, Mike, and his son, Liam, check out their tree.

Back in the 60's, our family would often take the bus into Southend to look at the 'lights' - the illuminations that came alive when darkness descends. Best seen from the 'longest pier in the world', the coloured lights would be reflected in the water (if the tide was in) and we'd feast our eyes upon them for the whole mile-and-a-quarter walk back from the pier head. (Of course, we would have taken the pier train on the outward journey!) The warmth of the bag of chips (fries) in our hands, wrapped in newspaper (with the malt vinegar seeping through onto our fingers ready for later licking) would enhance the experience!

Illuminations on Southend Pier

(Courtesy of

You can imagine my delight upon learning that the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train was going to make its appearance in Sudbury, just 2 hours away from where we live. I had seen various movies of it on YouTube last year, and had made a note in our calendar to explore the possibility of getting to see it, live, this year. Dreams do come true! 

We decided to stay overnight so that we would be able to enjoy the experience without having to journey back home afterwards. It was slated to arrive in Sudbury at 8:50, followed by a performance from 9:15 for half an hour. True to form, it was a little late, but that added to the anticipation as crowds gathered - young and older - clinging to the safety fence, eyes peeled towards the East from which it would make its appearance, with phones ready for the photo op. I'm always amazed at the kindness that emerges when crowds gather together for events like this. There's an excitement in the air, and everyone is touched by the camaraderie. 

Sure enough, at about 9:10, the sound of the whistle echoed through the night air and the first glow of lights from the engine appeared along the track. The train eased its way forward, gradually chugging past us until it came to a complete (and relatively silent) stop along the station platform. It had arrived.!!

We managed to take a short movie of its arrival, and a couple of pics of it from different angles.

We were not disappointed! There were so many wagons with Christmas greetings and scenarios all blinking with a plethora of coloured lights. The crowd's sense of fun was tangible, and the look of wonder on the faces of the children was contagious. Everyone was happy that the Holiday Train had arrived in their town this Christmas. 

When we finally left there, we visited the Science North Festival of Lights - an annual display which raises money for charity. We were lucky to have it almost all to ourselves as most people were still at the station. 

Alan meets Santa!

Display of light trees

Mark, imitating the illuminations

Mark loves deer - in any way, shape, or form!

Mark rubs noses with Rudolph

It was a great way to celebrate the beginning of the festive season and now, since it's December 1st, I can't wait to really get into it. Bring it on!

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Kathy's Brew Haha!... more than just a cafe!

Kathy's Brew Haha! ... More than just a cafe!

Since it's opening a couple of weeks ago, we've been promising ourselves a visit to the newest jewel in our town of Elliot Lake. Yesterday, we made good on that self-promise and dropped in to see it for ourselves. 

A couple of months ago, our friend, Kathy Mitchell, mentioned that she was going to be starting up a new venture in town and we were excited at the prospect. During the preparations for our car rally, back in September, we noticed that the sign was already up and we decided that we would make it a priority to include a visit upon our return from our latest house/pet sitting assignment. 

Such a warm, welcoming feeling at the entrance

Stepping through the entrance, you are greeted with a warm fuzzy feeling, complete with aromas that are conducive to finding a comfy seat and spending a couple of hours there! Topping that, is the persona of Kathy, herself, whose down-to-earth warmth and heart of service permeates the whole experience.  

Vanna White has nothing on Kathy!

A bundle of positive energy, Kathy has created an environment where one is surrounded by uplifting slogans and mottos that punctuate the venue while relaxing with some of the many treats that she has available.

Inspiring messages permeate the venue

There is a choice of seating - from armchairs, regular table and chairs, and bar stools where patrons can look out at the comings and goings on Ontario Street. Everything is geared to the 'come-in-and-tarry-awhile' experience... and we can guarantee that we'll be popping in on a regular basis whenever we're in town. 

A repeated pic... but I love this one so much!!

Kathy provides a wide range of tea and coffee flavours and blends... and the dessert offerings are to die for, courtesy of Sloan at the Fat Raccoon Bakery with whom Kathy has a special arrangement. (Anyone who has tasted the concoctions of Sloane will attest to their excellence!!) Making yourself comfortable and enjoying these goodies is a real treat - and the prices are amazing affordable.

Sloane's treats are truly awesome!

Mark and I chose a pot of tea each - complete with bone china cup and saucer. This meant that we were each able to enjoy 3 cups of the splendid brew, which warmed us from the inside out. 

Of particular interest were the jigsaw table - where patrons could sit and spend some time working upon the partially completed puzzle; and the free paperback book exchange is an excellent addition - 'take a book.. leave a book' ... what a great way to recycle and share! 

While away some time at the jigsaw table

Take a book - leave a book

Kathy's personality attracts those who, like herself, are 'people people'. We interacted easily with other patrons, but were still able to enjoy the privacy of the intimate setting. 

The many tasteful decorations, home-made crafts, and items on display and/or for sale, build a delightful ambience - either to take in up close, or just to sit back and enjoy the overall feeling of well-being. 

wi-fi is also available

Some home-made crafts

Add your own milk, cream, and sugar to taste

A variety of flavours - a dash here and there

For those of you who are fortunate to live in Elliot Lake, this is another jewel in our crown - and a visit here is not to be missed. For those who will be gracing our wonderful town with your presence, Kathy's Brew Haha! is a must - a place that will help your family and friends take away feelings of goodness, warmth, and welcome - which encapsulates what we have found since we have moved here.

For further information: Kathy's Brew Haha! is to be found at 126 Ontario Avenue, Elliot Lake. 

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (though you'll never be rushed out!!)

Like her Facebook Page:   Kathy's Brew Haha! 

Kathy's Brew Haha! is a fair trade coffee shop. 

Fat Racoon Bakery can be found at: 7 Charles Walk Elliot Lake 

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