Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mug Ups and Music

Eating in Newfoundland can be an adventure, and to visitors a crash course in the lingo might be in order.  A touton is bread dough fried in salt pork fat or butter and served with molasses, for instance.  Scrunchions are misspelled on the sign below, but are fried pieces of salt pork fat cooked to a crisp often with onions.  I shudder when I look at them, but Wayne will unfortunately eat them.

I wasn't able to find pease pudding when Cory and I asked around for a restaurant to eat dinner at, but I did find pea soup at O'Reilly's Pub.  Newfoundland pea soup is made from yellow split peas with bits of ham, turnip (rutabaga) potato and carrot thrown in and lots of pepper usually.  Besides chunky turnip soup and moose stew this is one of my favorite dishes to indulge in when I get the opportunity.

Cory had the poutine and I don't know what they do differently with their french fries not to mention their gravy in Newfoundland but it has a flavor all its own that is unmatched.  I snuck a few off his plate and tried not to think about what that meant for the high cholesterol of mine that I doubt will be tamed on this trip.

A "scoff" or a "big feed" is when the food is plenty and everyone tucks in.  While not a traditional scoff, my cousin Cheri and I cleaned our plates when we met for breakfast at Cora's in St. John's.  Remember those pictures I posted of the two of us coddin' around on Castle Hill?  I still see those girls in us, do you?

The only food I've had that disappointed was the chocolate at the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.  I cringe as I write that, it feels like blasphemy.  But I am here to tell the truth and the truth is it is not spectacular in any way, kind of bland and a little waxy as a matter of fact.  If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth head down Water Street a bit farther to Rocket Bakery.  Great spot for a "mug up" which is a snack with a cup of tea.  They also serve sandwiches, soup and quiche so stop on in for lunch if a mug up isn't enough.

I had a piece of cake and the ginger cookie.  Worth every butter and sugar laden bite.

That's enough about food for now, let's talk about music, which was well represented in a sculpture and a mural downtown.

And just around the corner musicians could be found with their cases open, and this was late afternoon on a weekday!  I preferred the accordion and showed my appreciation with a "Loony" which is the Canadian one dollar coin.

Accordion music always reminds me of my grandad, those were always happy times when he played in the living room and everyone was gathered together visiting.  As far as I know none of the Griffins have anyone in the family who does that anymore, but my sister-in-law Therese used to play I'll have to see if she still does!  She's the mother of the bride of the wedding we are attending tomorrow so who knows maybe I'll get to hear some more of that sweet accordion music tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nothing in there, just Nature

I was up early this morning to drive out to Butter Pot Provincial Park which is less than a half an hour drive from St. John's.  We always speed right by on our way out to see the relatives, but without Wayne along on this trip I finally had time to stop.  This is what I found.

Apparently all is closed up by October.  A gentleman happened to be parked outside the gate when I arrived and when I asked about going in he told me "Nothing in there, just nature."  I don't know who was more perplexed, me or him!

Just a five minute walk from the blocked entry I found access to ski trails, making me glad I had given road walking a try.

"Bridge" was sturdier than it looked!

I found a few tiny late blueberries still on the bushes, and some mushy crackerberries (bunchberries) too.  But mostly I just enjoyed the rich profusion of reindeer lichen on the forest floor.

No snow here yet, but it wasn't much above freezing this morning!

Since no other cars were parked out on the roadside I assume I was alone except for the moose whose hoofprints were plentiful on the trail.

Pitcher Plant past its bloom time

I walked about 2 miles total, through the blueberry bushes, up over the root tangles, and around the edges of ponds.

In addition to lichen, the boreal forest is a great place to find fungi.  Most were looking pretty beat up, but a few were still looking perky.

fungi village going down into the ditch 

Even old Pearly Everlasting doesn't look too bad against a splash of red.

Creek beds are seldom dry in Newfoundland, and I got a wet knee when I knelt in the moss and forgot it would be like a wet sponge!

Yes, nothing in there, just nature.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rode Microphone Review - A Real Winner!

It's not very often that I am blown away...well, sometimes in the Midwest wind is a factor, I must admit.

Choppy water on Lake Michigan at Harrington Beach State Park

A few weeks ago I bought a Rode VideoMic Go attachment for my Canon DSLR but haven't had an opportunity to test it out.  I'm heading to windy Newfoundland and had to test it out before I go so I drove up to Harrington Beach State Park for a last minute tent trip this past weekend.

All of the reviews I read or watched online were about its use for making videos with people in them, but I was looking for a solution to all that wind noise when out on my adventures.  Take a listen to this video I made at the beach, I about fell off my seat at Starbucks when I compared the two sections!

It attaches easily on the top of the camera and weighs nothing, I never noticed it was there after attaching it and I walked around with it around my neck for another hour after the test shot.

Cory and I touched down in St. John's, Newfoundland tonight, so lots of posts to come from the island.  I'm going to settle in and try to catch up on two months worth of blog reading this week too during my down time, some blogs I am even farther behind so my apologies but I swear I haven't forgotten you all!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Newfie on the Loose in Kenosha

My nephew Tom came and stayed with us in 1996 for 7 months when he was 18 years old.  He helped out with the kids, turned me on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even took one of our dogs home with him when he went back to Newfoundland.

He was skilled at avoiding the camera so this is the only photo I have of him from that time that shows his face.  We were at the kids' school Christmas program, if you couldn't figure that out by my groovy holiday sweater.  Funny that those are back in, but now they are worn "ironically".

Twenty years later Tom finally made it back for a visit again, and the past two weeks he's been hanging out with us just like the old days.  Not only part of the family routine, but he's even spending time watching the game in the neighbors garage and wooing the local ladies.  

Tom on the steps, Cory and his visiting friend behind him

I dragged him out to Kenosha which is where we were living when he stayed with us all those years ago, driving by the old house and exploring a few local spots nearby like the Dinosaur Museum.

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum isn't much, but it's a free museum with donations accepted which I was happy to do. The building was actually the old U.S. Post Office and was moved to the spot from a different location when the new one was built and the road widened.  Photos and a description of the move were just as interesting to me as the dinosaurs.

Where did the dinosaur fossils come from that were used to make the replicas?  Not Wisconsin, there have been no dinosaur discoveries here.  Wisconsin used to be mostly underwater, and erosion washed away most sediment that might have contained fossils.  By the time of the glaciers fossils reappear, including giant beavers, woolly mammoth, walruses, and whales! Unfortunately none of those were on display, perhaps I should make a request.

 The lower level houses the Carthage College Institute of Paleontology's research lab and information about their recent dig trips.  It also had a Pokemon Go charging station which was interesting to Cory and his friend.

After the museum we wandered around downtown by Lake Michigan, an area which is seeing new growth with the museums, restaurants and boutiques moving back in.  We had lunch at Mike's Chicken and Donuts and as we exited I spotted a mural I didn't know was there.

Mike Bjorn's Clothing features fine menswear from "mild to wild" but the best aspect of the store was the imaginative displays.

I don't know if they skeletons are on display all year or only added for the month of October, but they were spooktacular.

I don't know what was my favorite, the flying PeeWee Herman or the pimped out skeleton in the display window that got us in through the door in the first place.

We also dropped in to my cousin's new business venture just down the block called In the Garden of Eden, a tasteful lingerie shop that I hope does well for her.  Tomorrow Cory and I board a plane bound for Newfoundland with Tom to go to his sister's wedding this weekend. Hopefully I won't freeze to death when I try to go hiking!

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Walking in St. Louis

The Old Courthouse

Cory wanted to go meet a friend he made through online gaming so we found ourselves half an hour from St. Louis this weekend.

Old Courthouse interior, low light photography conditions

Wayne and I visited St. Louis for our 17th anniversary...10 years ago.  Not much has changed, except they are doing some work on the Jefferson Expansion Memorial (more commonly known as The Arch) and the site is looking a bit messy.

Having been here before I wasn't too disappointed and Cory was happy just to walk around with his friend and catch Pokemon on his phone.

I dashed back and forth across the intersections getting a few architectural shots.

No interior shots because the federal buildings are usually closed on the weekends.

I didn't have much time to explore, but it was to revisit a city and see it from a different perspective a decade later.

All the pictures were shot with my new wide angle lens, Canon - EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, and this one will be a keeper! At last!  All of these were straight out of the camera  and the lens was a great price at $280, quiet motor for video, and super lightweight.  It also seems to have less perspective distortion from bottom to top for architectural shots than when I used the 10-22mm, which I did not want to replace at a cost of $649 for how I felt it performed.  Only downside is it will not perform as well in lower light but who cares for the price difference?  So now my "kit" is complete until I decide I'm okay with a heavier lens.

Even with a wide angle lens it would be hard to get all of City Hall from street level in a single shot, it does sit on 6 acres after all.  Built in 1898 it was inspired by the City Hall of Paris.  Maybe someday I'll be back again and get a peek inside, I'm sure it is magnificent.

Just down the road is another impressive building, the 120 year old Union Station.

Once the largest and busiest rail station in the world, it has been renovated and smartly repurposed, housing a hotel, retaurants and when we were here a decade ago a mall.  Now it is under construction again and next year will contain a train park and in 2018 an aquarium too!

I've never been here at night when the fountains are lit up, but I'm guessing it makes the guy above look less grumpy.

I don't know if anything could make this guy look cheerful!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Autumn Treats

Autumn treats are here, from caramel covered apples to pumpkin spice lattes.

The prairie is putting on its last show of the year before the trees take center stage.

 I walked around Waukesha's downtown last weekend and enjoyed some of their painted guitars and murals.  They have a link to a map here if you're interested in finding them.

Perfect walking weather is starting to happen more frequently, last week's wave of heat and humidity has run its course and hopefully that was the last we'll see of it.  Linking up to Saturday's Critters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Argentia Before the Americans -Walking in Grandad's "Backyard"

 So, I still have a couple of posts to write from the LAST time I was in Newfoundland which was about this time last year.  Cory and I are heading up there for a visit next month, so I figured it was time I got around to it.

Walking in Argentia

It's not like me to put off such a labor of love for so long, but these posts actually require real research involving books and not the internet.  At least I didn't have to head for the card catalog, right?  I know everyone here is probably old enough to remember what that was like!  I have a book for some of the information regarding the building of the base titled "Uprooted: The Argentia Story" by Eileen Houlihan and I am relying on some tidbits from family members to fill in some of the rest. 

Black Knapweed

Speaking of the olden days, my favorite part of our trip last year was all the time I had to explore Argentia and let my mind roam to what it must have been like before the Americans came.  So here's a little history lesson on the area for us all. (Any inaccuracies are my own!)

Like most of coastal Newfoundland the area started out as a fishing grounds in the early 1800's and gradually the fishermen stayed and built a community.  Argentia was actually called "Little Placentia" initially, but was renamed Argentia for a silver mine nearby.  Not much ever came from the mining effort, it was the cod fishing grounds that provided a living through the 1800's, with the fishermen trading their cod for other staples and supplies.  My great-grandfather was a fisherman originally from Iona (a tiny island to the north) but married Margaret Houlihan of Argentia and they settled there on her family's land.  He fished in Argentia but at times also went to Boston and fished there as well.

My grandfather Matthew probably at age 16 in 1941

The people of these small communities not only fished but built their own homes, cut their own hay, raised livestock and grew gardens.  Growing up my grandfather's family grew potatoes, turnip, cabbage and carrots which is still a staple of the Newfoundland diet today.  In addition to chickens, sheep and a cow their family at one time also had a black horse named Charlie, and having a horse was handy since it was so isolated that a horse and cart was the main mode of transportation.  My great grandfather took ill with tuberculosis at age 46 and passed away at the age of 48, leaving his wife with mouths she could not feed so some of the children were sent to live at orphanages in St. John's including my grandfather, Matthew.

For my great grandmother and other families times were lean during the Depression and with World War II looming the residents weren't surprised when their community was chosen as a U.S. Naval Base site for its protected harbor and large flat ground area perfect for an airplane runway.

Notice the airfield at top of peninsula, I assume this photo is from after the Americans started building the base.

My grandfather was living at the orphanage at the time of the arrival of the Americans and unfortunately I never thought to ask him before his death about our family connection to the events,  but I am lucky enough to have found an account in the book "Uprooted: The Argentia Story" from his sister, Rose, about how the events affected the family members living there at the time.  They packed all their possessions as the evacuation date approached, dismantled their beds and awaited the arrival of the moving truck.  However it did not arrive for two or three days so at night they had to unpack their bedding and sleep on the floor.  My Aunt Rose worked for the Avalon Telephone Company in Marquise and during the demolition of their deserted town would walk to their old home and eat her lunch there until construction efforts finally forced her to say good-bye to their home in the Traverse's Cove area of the Argentia Peninsula for good.

Aunt Rose at the switchboard

Before the war, Argentia and Marquise had populations of 477 and 283 residents, many of whom were given only a month notice to leave.  Approximately 200 properties in Argentia and Marquise were expropriated by the Americans, and the first eviction notices were delivered as early as December 1940.  The residents received between $3,000 and $7,000 in compensation depending on the value of their land.

The moose love it in Argentia, look at the size of those hoof marks!

It was an amount that many felt was too small to cover the emotional and financial burdens of moving.  Most of the blame was directed at the Commission of Government and not at the Americans.  A committee made two major requests of the Commission of Government: that residents who wished to remain together should be able to resettle as a community, and that the new community should be located close to Argentia and its many employment opportunities.  The Commission of Government acquiesced and in June chose the village of Freshwater, about a mile distant from Argentia, as an appropriate site for resettlement. Although most residents moved to Freshwater, some also settled in Placentia and neighbouring communities.

The old bunkers on the hills overlooking the harbor are covered in berries!

My grandfather ran away from the orphanage at age 15 and arrived "home" in time to move in to the newly built house in Freshwater.  Though he didn't spend many of his years in Argentia, he cherished it and my mother said he would walk the land and call it "my backyard".

My grandfather's family settled in Freshwater, and my grandmother's family and Wayne's family were affected by the hardship of resettlement also but it had nothing to do with the U.S. Naval Base and is a tale for another time.  More about Argentia still to come!