Part 16: We're in this for the long haul...
Updated: Jan 30
Hard to believe it's been over 6 months since I last wrote a post, but these are strange times and Alan and I found ourselves just focusing on getting through it in the best way we could; being mindful of what is happening. We feel so much sadness for the world, for every business and family that is suffering... and especially for people who are in small living spaces and aren't able to get out in nature.
It was early April and my work had really slowed to a crawl... thankfully Alan was getting one great 3D animation project after another – we couldn't believe how fortunate we were; as a corporation with no employees or payroll, we weren't eligible for any government support. I did what I could, working on our website, and whatever came in, but in order to keep my sanity, I dove into the renovation project I'd started in March – turning the upstairs level of our house into a guest suite. There was a lot of work to do before the arrival of visitors in early July.
One day I was ripping up the rug in the main room, which turned out to be TWO layers of old carpet – so old they were disintegrating – when I uncovered 12" wide original floor boards!
I ran up to the studio to tell Alan the amazing news and called Rissers to ask what they would do. Upon closer examination, we realized the rest of the flooring was glued down and there was no way we could really keep them as original... oh well.
Back to scraping and stripping to get rid of the dark green and purple trim everywhere. It was a massive job and took me weeks...
I had a lot of time to think and the physical work helped me stay fairly calm. I was stressed about money and my lack of billable work. We put everything on hold – no new roof on the house, no widening of our driveway; it didn't look like we were going to have any events in our studio anyway... and we weren't going to be building a dock either. We had no idea what the future held, so we had to hang on to our savings and not overextend ourselves.
Like everyone, we weren't going anywhere, and I started to bake more than usual.
My flute lessons with Tricia were now virtual, which was fine although I missed having them in person.
Another big pandemic project was putting up the acoustic panels in the studio. Alan worked out the layout to perfection (I love this man for his amazing attention to detail) – making sure that the spacing was exact between all the panels by building frames to work as spacers. It took us a few weekends, but we got it all done and now the sound is great. It looks cool too!
April felt like the longest month ever and we slowly rolled into May. We felt so fortunate to be able to go to the beach and we went often – talking and easing our stress. The ocean and the sound of the waves... well, I don't think there is anything more calming.
Our friend Bernie made some masks and shipped them to us – very sweet!
Along with the baking, we were eating like kings – we both love to cook anyway, but this was more than normal – just to keep ourselves entertained. New recipes and old favourites: zucchini cakes, stuffed peppers, spatchcock chicken and roast potatoes, pork souvlaki and of course, Alan's famous pizza. If worse came to worse, we could open a roadside take-away. LOL
And we were zooming! In fact, the upside of this pandemic is that we have connected with family way more than normal. We zoom with Alan's dad every Sunday, lots of chats with friends and zoom dinner dates with my sister, Deb. Very nice.
The renovation was coming along and we were still hopeful that we'd be able to have guests visit, so I was busting my butt to get stuff done.
Finally all the green and purple was painted out to white – wow, what a difference. The entire space was light and bright and feeling fresh. For the walls, I painted the main room a very soft pink and the bedroom a very pale green.
Found these bifold doors on Facebook Marketplace for a steal and also a great antique mirror – it has a stamped metal frame and I painted it a lovely bronze colour.
The bathroom has all the trim done now – the walls will be painted a sand colour once we replace the shower surround... another project.
In early May, still feeling stressed about work, Alan suggested I start that novel I've been talking about for years... wow, could I really do that? I wouldn't be generating any income... it felt so indulgent. But I dove in and had 25,000 words written in just over a week. I have been thinking about this novel for so long that the story just poured out of me. In a month I had over 45,000 words. It's a true story about 3 of my family members and it gave me a chance to connect with family members to dig into their memories and make sure I had my facts straight. Long conversations with my uncle Ray were particularly helpful since I was writing about his siblings. That's all I'm saying about it for now – the novel continues...
There was no budget to put in a proper raised bed garden, so I had to settle for a collection of containers. We grew tomatoes, peppers, beans, pea and lots of herbs, even lemongrass and ginger! The herbs did particularly well and we enjoyed them all summer right into October. Every evening I'd watch the sky to see what kind of show we would be treated to.
On June 1, 2020, we celebrated our 6th anniversary. We had a trip booked to PEI but everything was in shutdown, so that got cancelled. My sister Deb was so sweet and sent us an e-transfer to buy a nice take-out dinner, which we did... from one of our favourite restaurants that we missed terribly, The Salt Shaker. It was quite good and we did a zoom with Deb to celebrate. She had a banner with 'Happy Anniversary' and we were able to purchase a bottle of champagne at the restaurant too. Love in the time of Covid-19!
At the end of 2019, we had provided a quote to take photos for Wiles Lake Farm Market in 2020. It sure didn't look like that was going to happen, and then out of the blue, we heard from them and they wanted to go ahead with the project! We were starting with the greenhouses and I needed to brush up on my plant shots! I had never taken the Lunenburg Harbour Walk, so off I went. The apple blossoms were still full and there were many flowers in bloom.
On June 9th, we took the photos of the greenhouses. What a beautiful place to spend the day!
A week later we were shooting the bakery items
And then the kitchen items... it was a great assignment and everyone who works there is terrific. It's a great local market, offering so much; from plants to ice cream. Check out our website www.lovebitesphotos.com to see all the photos we took.
By mid-June, it became crystal clear that no one would be visiting us this summer. They were putting an 'Atlantic Bubble' in place on July 3 and anyone coming into the province would have to quarantine for 14 days. So that was that. We were sad about this as it's been a bit tough to develop friendships here with the whole shut-down and now we weren't going to see anyone we loved in person for 'who knows how long!'
Weather wise we had a gorgeous spring and the summer heat was kicking in...we hardly had any rain or wind, and the days were warm and peaceful.
Alan's birthday was coming up and he had been working so hard that we both felt he deserved the beautiful table saw that he had been pining for.
It inspired him to design and start building a new headboard for us.
Kind of good news bad news... Alan has been so busy with work that he hasn't been able to finish this sucker yet. Every Sunday, his dad asks us 'so how is that headboard coming along?' We just laugh about it now – it's in the works!
June 24, is a triple celebration for us – not only is it Alan's birthday but it's the day we bought this place 3 years ago AND the day they broke ground to start the build last year. We took ourselves to The Beach Pea – another favourite restaurant of ours in Lunenburg. We hadn't been to a restaurant in months and it was weird with masked staff and only a few tables occupied, but we still had a lovely time. And the food, as always, was exceptional.
Canada Day was very quiet of course, until we heard some pops! Our neighbours we setting off some fireworks over the cove that we got to enjoy from our deck. When they were over, I shouted into the night, 'Thank you! Happy Canada Day!' to which we got a reply, 'You're welcome! Happy Canada Day to you too!' Celebration in the time of Covid-19.
July 3rd was a gorgeous day and my friend Dee and her daughter Kate came down from Halifax to join us for a kayak trip to celebrate my birthday! We had a fantastic morning on the water with Cape LaHave Adventures - these guys are great and since there are hardly any tourists this year, three of the guys came out with us. We saw lots of seals, and when we stopped on an island to stretch our legs, Deirdre brought out some cream puffs – a sweet treat. (She also had cake for our beach lunch afterwards – that girl! Love her!)
See that face? That's pure joy my friends... me, doing one of things I love most. And I must say, Nova Scotia is a kayaking paradise. We have much to explore!
We weren't doing very many social things, most events had been cancelled, but Petite Rivière Winery was having a 'social distanced seating' concert that we didn't want to miss! Donald MacLennan and Mike Dalton. So glad we went – it was fantastic.
The beaches were closed for a short time – too many people bunching up in groups – but they soon opened up again. Thank goodness! We love our beach picnics!
Jaws fans: watch this video to the end... LOL
We were enjoying our time together, just being at home – kayaking, going for walks at the nearby parks and sitting by the campfire.
By the end of August, I had finished all the painting in the guest suite and needed to take a break from that project. Why? Because I had a new project! LOL
Before we moved here, Alan and I had agreed that we were going to do our very best to not buy retail – search for items to refurbish, refinish and reuse. So, I had been watching kijiji and facebook marketplace for a dining table and chairs and I finally found something! I got this collection of chairs and table for $125. Happiness!
I was particularly happy about the table – it was made here in Nova Scotia and is really nice quality wood – probably maple. We carefully took it apart, labeling all the pieces and I set to work stripping it.
Meanwhile, the chairs were a mix of styles with cushions covered in plastic by the last owner who had a couple small children. What a surprise I got as I started to take them apart to reupholster!
First of all, there were 3 layers of fabric, so a million tacks dating back several decades. And then I discovered that the stuffing was horsehair and straw! That meant that these chairs date back to @ 1920 or earlier as that's when they stopped using these materials in furniture. Cool.
I spent 2 months stripping, sanding, painting...
Yes my friends, I painted all the chairs and table skirting ORANGE! It's allowed – in fact, encouraged – to use bright, fun colours here, so we did.
Mid-September I had the opportunity to go on a bus tour with an online class I was taking. Nancy, owner of Seaweed Tours, had a new idea she wanted to pitch to us. It was a really lovely day as we started the tour in Lunenburg. Nancy has spent most of her life in Lunenburg and her dad had the first pub in town that she used to work at – lots of great stories! We then explored a secret area of Blue Rocks that I did not know existed, then had a lovely picnic. Sarah was just launching her new business Lunenburg Rum Cakes and we got to do some sampling. Delicious! You can order her cakes and chocolate products online.
Later that week, we had one more photoshoot to do for Wiles Lake Farm Market. We had been waiting for the outdoor market to look just right. In other words, we were waiting for the pumpkins and squash to deliver. Luckily, I had amazing light that morning.
I also spent some time taking photos in Lunenburg – it has felt a bit like a ghost town this summer...
And then... Alan bought a drone. Why not practice in the studio?
He took this video of our neighbour's boat, the Tilicum. Oh what fun we are going to have with this new toy.
Back to my pandemic project... There was one chair that was older and more beautiful than the other four. So I stripped this one completely and Alan did some glueing for me – it was a real labour of love because the detail in the chair back was quite intricate, but I got in there with dogged determination, armed with steel wool, mineral spirits, and a tooth brush until it was perfect. This little chair took the mahogany stain so beautifully – it is my pride and joy.
Reupholstering the cushions was a new challenge – something I had never done before. Alan found an excellent video on YouTube for me to watch. Well, I watched it at least a dozen times – this is NOT easy and I have a whole new respect for professional upholsterers. With perseverance and a whole lot of frustration, I got it done.
The table top turned out beautifully after 3 coats of sealer and sanding between each coat. Another great Youtube video was watched and we learned how to get a smooth finish by using superfine waterproof sandpaper and creating a slurry of soapy water. Repeat that process with superfine OOO steel wool and wow! super smooth finish. Last step – a coat of paste wax. Oh my forearms.
Everything was almost done and I was determined to have our table and chairs in place for Thanksgiving. Alan helped me put it all back together. We soaked all the hardware in CLR and scrubbed the decades of crud off, and ended up replacing the piano hinges altogether. You might think we are crazy for going so bold with the colour but we just love it. Every day this set makes us smile.
On October 5th we had our very first event in the studio! The Bridgewater & Area Chamber was hosting a mayoral debate and needed a good space to social distance 3 people and provide a recording. It went very well and to tell the truth, it was kind of exciting to have people over! LOL
I'm doing quite a bit with the Chamber now. In early June they invited me to join the board and now I'm also on the Community/Member Engagement committee. It's an honour and we're working on some initiatives to engage members a lot more. It's challenging these days but... that's business in the time of Covid-19.
On the Thanksgiving weekend, we took one day off to go to the wine region. The province is so compact, it takes just over an hour to get to the other side. It still surprises us to see how different the terrain is there.
The Look-off at Blomidon Park is not to be missed. Neither are the wineries!
As I had hoped, the very first meal we had at our new table was Thanksgiving. We had much to be thankful for. Living in Canada tops the list. Living in Nova Scotia where we hardly have any cases comes a close second.
One of the things we like most about living here is how long and warm the fall season is. The colours of the leaves get more and more pronounced during the month of October. Just when you think they might be at their peak, you drive down a road and realize that it's even more beautiful than it was a few days ago. On top of that, the morning light is often very golden, so we got up early on October 18 to take some photos.
And so, it's Sunday October 25 and another month is almost over as we make our way through this pandemic. I've been reading a lot and one of the best books I've read lately is by Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. In fact, I read it through twice and I think it's really helped me to constantly remind myself that we are all in this together and the things that cause me anxiety are possibly causing millions anxiety. And I'm reminded that there are always people who are suffering much more than we are.
We will get through this. Until then, continue to find the joy in every tiny possible thing that you can.