hanami in the city

It’s the most magical time of the year. The trees are blooming, the sun is shining, everyone’s out enjoying extended daylight. Spring is here! :D

Every year we try going to High Park to enjoy the cherry blossoms. There were hardly any blooms last year because of unusual winter weather, but it seems to be making up for it this year with full blooms on sunny days. Aren’t they just magnificent?

I’ve been seeing these cords tied to tree branches everywhere. I think once upon a time I looked up the meaning of it, but can’t be sure now. I would guess that they represent wishes or prayers, or they just look nice on the trees? If anyone know what they are for can you make a comment and let me know?

Our tradition is to have a picnic under a cherry tree. This year’s picnic is a bit makeshift because we were coming from work (an attempt to avoid crowds on a weekday evening — not so successful. Oh well.), with discounted end-of-day sushi and Vitasoy and a taro roll, but it was still the best date night ever :)

We even met the resident swan!

Happy May! Happy spring! :D

 

lately

It’s been a very busy fall so far, haven’t had a lot of time to update here. But here are some fun local adventures from the start of the fall :)

We visited a new cat cafe in the city one weekend, aptly named Meow Cat Cafe. All the cats live with the owner of the cafe. photo-2016-09-24-12-29-09-pm

When we got there a very fluffy cat made sure that we were reading the rules.

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They’ve got very cute cup sleeves :D

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It was a warm, sunny afternoon. The cats were quite relaxed. Look at that paw~

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*heart eyes x1000*

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The shop owners are very friendly, looks like they have a few locals visiting regularly with the cats, which makes for a very homey environment. Though I started sneezing quite a lot while I was there and had to leave (reluctantly).

One might ask why I like visiting cat cafes if I were allergic. The answers being: 1) I’m allergic to some cats but not others. I’ve visited other cat cafes but haven’t had allergic reactions that was severe enough that made me need to leave, so having allergies doesn’t stop me from being with cats; 2) I love cats, but I don’t have the time or space or experience to make me feel comfortable about committing to caring for a cat.

But sometimes I do wonder about visiting cat cafes. I wonder whether I was intruding on the cats’ space, disturbing them when they just want to relax or sleep. And I don’t know how to play with cats, because I’ve never had pets (aside from my office beta fish, who died an unexplained death and made me vow to never have beta fish pets again, but I digress), but sometimes feel weird about sitting and just looking at the cats when other people are enthusiastically trying to get the cats to play.

My favourite cat cafe was one we visited in Montreal. The cats were just wandering about as people chatted. People would pet them if they happened to walk by under the table, or if they were sitting still somewhere. It was like sitting at a cafe that happened to have a few cats in it, rather than visitors chasing the cats to coax the cats to play. Much more relaxed.

Anyway, maybe one day we’ll meet a cat that wants to live with us.

We decided not to go to Nuit Blanche (annual overnight art event in Toronto) this year because the past couple of years have been disappointing. There were just so many people and many of the installations took hours of lineup to see. But we visited a couple of exhibits at Toronto City Hall, which stayed up for a week or so after the event. This one was called Death of the Sun by Director X.

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The sculpture changed as it goes into different phases. Here it looks like a giant lantern (or pearl onion, I kept thinking).

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And eventually it turned dark.

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Which reminds me that nothing is forever. Not our impressive buildings, not our earthly achievements, not even our sun.

Across the square there was a video projected onto the water fountain, called Pneuma by Floria Sigismondi. My favourite part was when the owl emerged.

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Because it reminds me of the magical Hedwig.

Hoping to have more time to spend here now that my busiest week is over. Wishing you an awesome start to the week!

 

close encounter with tumbled rocks

More photos with the macro lens band.

I’ve always found agates fascinating. Especially those translucent or partly transparent stones with different layers and bits of different materials in them — like a world within itself.

I inherited a bag of tumbled/polished rocks that Mike’s grandfather had collected. They’re mostly small stones or stone chips that are about the size of my fingernail. So I thought it would be fun to try taking some macro pictures of them, to try and capture the intricate layers and inclusions and colour variations within each stone.

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Here’s one with my finger in the picture for scale.

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I think these are amethysts.

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And this might be a moss agate? Looks like seaweed in the ocean.

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Aren’t these beautiful? I hope to make them into pendants one day.

On a separate note, have you seem the comics by Sarah Andersen? They’re the BEST!! Probably because I identify so much with the main character. But check it out on Instagram and other places if you haven’t read them!

So I recently bought her new book, Adulthood is a Myth, which is so wonderfully hilarious and cute and I’ve read it cover to cover 3 times already. And look, it’s got a fuzzy sweater on the cover!

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Wishing everyone a great start to the week!

 

macro fun

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There was an awesome sale at Photojojo after the holidays, so I bought this handy macro band for my phone! I’ve had it for a while, but just started taking pictures with it this week.

I bought a couple of pairs of lovely lucite earrings from Leeti Lovendale on Etsy. The earrings in the picture above are 5mm across. (there also appears to be a hair on my lens :S) (also, check out the shop! The lucite pieces used in their jewelry-making have an interesting story :D)

We’ve got a bit of a snow storm here a couple of days ago, and our windows were all frosted in the morning.

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I’m quite impressed with this simple (and somewhat silly-looking) macro lens. Stay tuned for more macro pictures to come :D

Wishing everyone a happy weekend!

 

Christmas crafting fun :D

Some of the gifts I made for Christmas :)

This was from a pattern by the Knit Cafe, I got it while participating in the annual TTC Knitalong. I don’t usually knit with such fine yarn, so it took me quite a long time, but the result is well worth the effort!

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I like the contrast between the solid garter stitch and the lacy mesh stitch when it’s all wrapped around. Might make another one sometimes, with a different colour combination :)

Here’s a much quicker project I made for Mike, using Bernat Blanket. It’s quite a soft but sturdy yarn with very little stretch, I thought it’d be perfect for slippers. The pattern is from Rainbows and Sunshine. Fits him perfectly! :D

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This bonnet was finger knitted on the plane, on our way back from the east coast, with a skein of beautiful Sirdar Kiko. It’s a baby shower gift I made it for a friend who used to work as a flight attendant on the airline we flew with :)

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This is one of the stones from Mike’s grandpa’s collection, which I wrapped with wire and made into pendants. Mike’s grandpa passed away a few years ago. He was quite a semi-precious stone and fossil enthusiast when he was young!

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I’m not educated in stone identification at all, so if anyone knows what this stone is, please feel free to drop me a note! I made a total of 13 pendants for aunts and cousins, but I was too excited about wrapping them up and writing notes to go along with them, I neglected to take pictures of the finished necklaces. I followed this handy tutorial for the wire-wrapping.

While visiting Mike’s parents we looked through more of grandpa’s rock collection, including this piece of petrified wood, with transparent inclusions! How cool is that?

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Look at the light shining through. Maybe it can be made into a sun catcher.

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And here’s my young nephew wearing his present :D

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I followed the owl hat pattern by Kat Goldin. Also made these owl mitts from Down Cloverlaine for my other young nephew, this pineapple bag for my niece, a couple of knit neckwarmers/cowls that I made up with bulky weight yarn, this casserole carrier from Moogly for my mother-in-law, and a couple more projects that I can’t show you just yet because the recipients haven’t opened them :)

After making gifts I thought I’d spend the holidays making something for myself. I recently started on this sweater from the current issue of Interweave Crochet. Here I am drinking tea, eating Kinder eggs, and watching family play scrabble while I crochet — holiday at its finest :D

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We’ve also got some very unusual weather in our corner of the world this Christmas. It’s not unusual to not have snow, but it was warm enough to find these turkey tails (I think that’s what they are) in the backyard!

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Happy about the fungi sighting, at the same time a bit uneasy about the double-digit temperature :S

Then on the weekend it was very windy, with water splashing onto the lakeside road. Reminds me of the roaring sea in the east coast! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the lake with waves like that, but then I don’t see the lake very much from where I live.

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But all in all we had a fun time away from the city visiting family. And I’m grateful to have one more week of holidays until the new year, which means more time to write about crafting fun here on the blog! :D

Wishing you a wonderful week!

 

buttermilk mary

Trip to the sea continues! :D

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We were so fortunate! We were told by the locals that the leaves in Cape Breton were 2 weeks behind their regular schedule this year, so we got to drive through the mountains when they were the most vibrant! <3

Like many people who visit Cape Breton Island, we drove around the Cabot Trail, which is the upper part of the island, as shown in this map here.

We stayed at the Auld Farm Inn in Baddeck, I think the largest village on the Cabot Trail. (We highly recommend the B&B, the rates are very reasonable, and the hosts are so very friendly and thoughtful. I loved that they took the time to explain the history of the farm house and referred to themselves as custodians rather than owners of the property. AND they use old keys for the rooms!)

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We aimed for an early start in the morning, as fellow inn guests let us know that they took 6 hours to complete the trail the day before. It was a sunny and crisp fall morning when we set out on our road trip around the trail :)

If I remember correctly, we spotted this church near St. Anne’s Bay, not far from Baddeck.

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Then we stopped at the look-out point at Lakie’s Head, with its rugged coastline of pink rocks.

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We stopped here for the washroom I think. And I really like the building against the bright blue sky, and the name of the place. So honest.

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This is also where we found an album named “Buttermilk Mary”. I thought Buttermilk Mary was the artist or the band, and I thought that’s a great stage name (or blog post title, or name for a cat, haha). It wasn’t until after we came back and Googled it that we realized Buttermilk Mary is a set of jigs by the Baroque N’ Fiddle String Quartet, and we totally regretted not buying the album at the general store! We ended up buying it on iTunes :P It’s really lovely, you can watch it played here.

Can’t remember the last time we navigated by paper rather than GPS or Google Maps. This map was given to us by a friendly staff when we got to the Highlands National Park office. We were asking for directions to waterfalls on the trail. She marked her favourite spot on the trail with a heart :)

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White Point Beach was her favourite spot and she highly recommended it. Just a bit north of Neil’s Harbour, which is a very picturesque fishing community.

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This lighthouse doubles as an ice cream parlour in warmer months!

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Obviously October is not one of the warmer months in the east coast. It actually got really windy when we got to White Point.

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And we snapped a few more photos…

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But we never made the trek to the White Point Beach, because it was just too cold and windy. So we got back into our warm rental car and continued on the trail.

There were many look-out points along the way. Pictures really can’t capture fully the vastness of land and the majestic mountains. Can you see the river weaving between the mountains?

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We started following one of the shorter trail to find the Black Brook Falls, but then Mike spotted the Coyote warning sign and told me about it. I started to panic, remembering stories from our east coast friends about how east coast coyotes hunt like wolves, in packs. So I convinced Mike to turn back. But we did venture into the woods for a few minutes. I love how moss seems to cover everything in these woods.

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And we came across a river. Mike took a brilliant photo of it, which I don’t think he minds me showing it off :D

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I also took far too many of these behind-the-dashboard pictures with Mike’s DSLR while he was driving. The view is different behind every bend! And as you can see, the weather was also different minute by minute. It was now hailing. But look at the sea!!

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One of the last look-out points we stopped at was the most exhilarating. I believe this is at or near Margaree. The gusty wind, the sea mist, the salt in the air, the roaring sea — it simply commands us to be fully present in that moment of being there. I usually have a huge fear of deep water and height (because I can’t swim). But in that moment, looking down into the sea and the jagged rocks from a cliff, I felt strangely safe, like I’ve found my place in all the created beings and things. Like I belong. The experience of that moment was one of the best gifts that I brought back with me.

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After going around the trail we explored village of Baddeck the next day. Aside from Baddeck Yarns (see previous post :D), we visited the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site and museum. I never knew that the inventor lived in Cape Breton! (he and his wife are also buried in Baddeck) And that aside from inventing the telephone, he also contributed to many innovations in aviation and shipbuilding. The tetrahedron was a structure that he frequently incorporated into his inventions, from kites to towers to aircrafts, because of its strength. This is a tetrahedron shelter that he would have stayed in to observe flying experiments.

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Alexander Graham Bell fell in love with this view and stayed. I wish we could stay too.

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Doing a bit of beach-combing here before heading to Sydney.

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And here we are in Sydney, capital of Cape Breton, home of the big fiddle and beautiful purple rocks!

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Here we spent the day visiting a couple of historic house museums. At Jost House the upper floor displayed an apothecary exhibit and a marine exhibit. The house was occupied by families of merchants from the 1700s until the 70s.

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Then we visited the Cossit House, which is believed to be the oldest house in Sydney, built in 1787. It was the home of a minister, who lived there with his wife and 13 children. It has a lovely back garden maintained by the museum docents, with handwritten signs explaining the names and uses of the herbs in all the garden boxes. It really was a cozy place. But when I took the picture with Diana Mini it turned out sort of dark, and then it has this glow at the doorway, which makes it look like those pictures of haunted places… or a house with a glowing heart…?

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Not sure where the glow comes from, it is also in a picture at the Joggins cliffs (picture of my feet), so I’m sure it has to do with the developing process or some kind of lens flare, and not the house itself :P

We then drove back to Halifax to catch our flight home, trying to squeeze in a few more strolls in the lovely city before we had to leave.

Argyle Street, naturally.

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If you ever find yourself visiting Halifax, and you’re looking for souvenirs that are not in the shape of a lobster or lighthouse, be sure to visit the World Tea House and Biscuit General Store on Argyle St.!

Also, if you like East Asian food, I highly recommend the Beaver Sailor Diner up the street from the harbour! I think it’s pretty new, the staff was really friendly, the noodles are handmade, the prices reasonable, and the logo is cute! (I think they should make buttons/pins of the logo.)

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Another great place where we found awesome souvenirs was the farmers’ markets. We visited the Seaport Farmers’ Market for breakfast one day at one of the bakers’ stalls, and bought quite a few bags of seaweed products from Mermaid Fare :D (the owner is very knowledgeable about the seaweed and how to cook them!) Here’s Mike’s picture of a friendly fish monger. We didn’t bring back any fish though.

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And then we ventured into the Historic Farmers’ Market in the Alexander Keith’s Brewery building (still haven’t done the brewery tour, must do that one day!). We find that it’s a smaller (but equally vibrant) market with more local residents visiting, whereas the Seaport Market can be very crowded when there’s a cruise ship docking at the harbour :S At both markets there are produce, spices, soaps, coffee stalls, bakeries, crafts, artwork, and everyone is happy to explain their products even if we weren’t buying anything.

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This is from one of our early morning strolls at the Old Burying Ground in Halifax. I like how the gentle sunlight of early morning is filtered through the trees and illuminating the old graves. It was founded in 1749, and closed in 1844. We spent some time there marveling at the old lettering and cravings on the headstones.

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And finally, part of why we were in the east coast in the first place was because I was presenting a paper at an art therapy conference in Halifax. That happened before we went on the road trip to Cape Breton. And this was me, basically reading out my script because I so dread public speaking. But I hope whatever it was that the participants took from what I shared would make a difference one day, no matter how small, how indirect.

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And that was my journey! I have a feeling that I will journey back one day. Just feel strangely at home in the east coast. Until then, I will miss the warm hospitality and the sea.

I hope you enjoy the photos and stories and travel tips! Thank you for journeying with me! :D

 

trip of the dreams!

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I’ve been looking forward to visiting the Joggins Fossil Cliffs for months. I had so wanted to become a paleontologist when I was a child, so going to a fossil site was a trip of the dreams! I studied tide time charts and planned our drive so we would arrive at low tide; I looked at other travellers’ photos and comments; I checked and re-checked weather forecast and prayed for rain to hold off on the day we planned to visit…

– and suddenly we were here!

The cliffs are situated along the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world. It holds rocks and fossils from the “Coal Age”, about 300 million years ago.

This, where I was standing, is the OCEAN FLOOR (could hardly contain my excitement!!) and will be submerged in up to 13 metres of water in a matter of hours.

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(as you might notice, some pictures were taken with film with the Diana, and some where taken on my phone).

We joined a walking tour, in which the friendly tour guide pointed out different fossils that could be found at the cliffs. Like this fossil of a tree trunk.

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These were trackways of Arty the arthropleura — a giant insect about 1–8 feet long. The tour guide showed a scaled down replica of Arty.

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Fossil of a trilobite.

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Fossil of tree roots.

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Look at the beautiful layers of rocks on the cliffs!

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The tides coming in…

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It was majestic.

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We were hoping to visit the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro afterwards, but we spent a bit too much time at the cliffs, and by the time we got to Parrsboro the museum was closed. So instead we spent some time at the wharf looking at the sunset sparkles on the water.

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More on Nova Scotia tomorrow! :D

Hope everyone is having a good start to the week!

 

last days of summer

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Finally developed the roll of film in my Diana from summer. These are some of my favourites. I really like the angle of this one of the echinacea.

Strolled past an artificial beach by the waterfront. It’s really quite nice with the permanent beach umbrella. Just kind of disappointed that I haven’t been able to make it to a real beach this summer…

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Double exposure of children playing on the WaveDecks.

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And a double exposure of me and the lake :D

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I thought I got some nice pictures on film this summer :) Looking forward to capturing fall colours!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

end of summer in black & white

Not that I feel particularly sad about the end of summer. I’ve had lots of fun this summer, but I’m sure there will be good times in the fall and winter too. There’s just something timeless about black and white photographs, capturing those everyday moments that are cherished.

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We visit the Distillery District at least once every summer. Took this picture while marveling at the gas lamps lit up at dusk.

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We got to enjoy some craft beer and lengthy conversations at the Indie Ale House with our good friends, whose children were camping out at their grandparents’ for the week. I think this was the first time we got to do this in 10 years :P I’m by no means a connoisseur of beer, I mostly order based on the names of the beer (I’m a sucker for interesting/pretty product names, I think I’ve mentioned this before…). So here I was having a “Rabbit of Caerbannog”, which I later found out was “an immensely cute but bloodthirsty rabbit-like monster found in Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” according to Villians Wikia.

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A majestic shark at the aquarium. I’m quite proud of this one.

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Not that the summer would stop me from crocheting or knitting, but I’m excited about making cozier things when the weather is cooler, and my holiday crafting list, the plushy scarves and mittens I’m going to make new wool, and this! I’m experimenting with making a pattern and can’t wait to find out whether it will work out, and I will surely share with you if it does!

And last but not least, I present to you — jellyfish magic at the aquarium.

The jellyfish were lit up with kind of a strange pink light (I guess otherwise they’d be difficult to see since they’re translucent), which my phone camera couldn’t capture very well, so I figure I’d just put a black and white filter on it in Instagram. I think it kind of creates a feeling of being in the deep, dark sea. And it’s just so elegant the way jellyfish move in water.

Cheers to a fabulous summer, and many more summers to come!

 

 

in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius

It’s become a bit of a summer tradition now, my sister and I going to the ROM :)

This year the feature exhibit is Pompeii. I loved learning about Pompeii when I was a kid! :D (and had dreams about becoming an archaeologist or a paleontologist, and once in a while I wonder about what my life would be like now if I had followed my dreams… anyway, I digress)

Usually when I hear about Pompeii the images of the body casts come to mind. And there were casts of the body casts in the exhibit too. But I found myself more attracted to marvelous mosaics, made of tiny, probably 1mm x 1mm pieces of clay. I’m quite surprised by how well these were preserved, despite the fire and the heat of the volcano eruption.

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I imagine the artisan’s hand, placing these clay chips one by one carefully onto wet grout, tracing the lines on the face, the subtle tonal variations of the skin.

And this is my favourite in the exhibit, the spectacular sea life mosaic.

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The phone photo really doesn’t do it justice. It is quite large in person. Looks like the octopus is battling a lobster-like creature. Here’s a close up of the octopus, made of many tiny tiles.

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This must have taken a long, long time to make. I imagine the artisan(s) taking a step back after the last tile was put into place, and feeling incredible joy and satisfaction when they saw what they have created.

I was also surprised by the survival of the many frescoes, like this one, of seafood.

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Intrigued by the sculpture’s very intricate hairstyle.

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Figs and bread carbonized in the eruption.

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There was also a video projection showing the eruption, with this wide-eyed statue in front of it. Looked to me like it was frozen in terror.

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Mike went on this trip with my sister and me, and he hadn’t been to other parts of the museum for a while, so we also toured the dinosaur galleries and the biodiversity gallery. There was an exhibit of the new dinosaur discovery! And! This is a 3-D printed model!

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Wendiceratops pinhornensis, named after the Canadian fossil hunter, Wendy Sloboda, who discovered it in Alberta, Canada :)

In the biodiversity gallery I was hoping to find a display of fungi. I’ve been to this part of the museum many times, but I thought maybe I’ve always missed it. Finally I found it, replicas in the Boreal Forest section, I think, as well as a drawer of dried mushrooms that were difficult to tell what they actually looked like before they were picked. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a larger display of more species of fungi and mushrooms, but this is still nice :)

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So that was the end of our adventure to the ROM. I hope you will get a chance to visit if you’re ever in the neighbourhood! :D I’m looking forward to finding out what next summer’s feature exhibition will be! Maybe it will be on the diversity of mushrooms and fungi! :D One can always dream… (I once saw a course at a local university titled “Mushrooms: Lords of the Dark Earth”. I so wanted to take the course but it wasn’t being offered anymore… anyway.)

Hope everyone is having a good week!

 

 

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