About spurned love and finding sweet rhubarb pie for my soul

Once upon a time I wrote a love letter to Canuckistan. But I have fallen out of love. I’m ready for a trial separation. Probably divorce. I’m done being treated with disdain. And I prefer the neighbour now.

Since the beginning of November I have been wandering around Washington, USA, and I have found a completely different vibe down here.  I was so jaded and tired of taking photos what with the suspicion with which I was treated in Canuckistan, that I was terrified to take out my camera in ‘merica. Because I had heard scary stories about the natives and their view on foreigners. And their guns.

It’s a beautiful part of the world, though, and so I took the risk.

But here in Canuckistan’s southern neighbour I was pleasantly surprised at how uber-friendly everyone was. Like, I have even tried to get people to say no to me taking photos of them. The other day I wandered into a barbershop full of burly men having their hair and beards coiffed. I was convinced they wouldn’t want their photos taken, but no, they were completely keen. At a farmers’ market, when I took a photo of a man who looked like a gnome, his wife jumped into the shot with a “hey, what about me?” And then, more recently I asked a family if I could take photos of them in a diner and the dad offered for all of his kids to come and pose at the milkshake “bar” for me. 

Everywhere, people speak to me like I’m a human being, not a threat. They ask me where I’m from and what camera I’m shooting with, and why I chose Nikon over Canon, and whether I’ve been up Mount Baker, and what else I’d like to see. And they tell me I should visit their hometown, or maybe come back in three weeks time when there’s snow on the ground because it’s prettier then. Every day someone surprises me with their genuine friendliness. And it’s heartwarming. 

But back to the diner. I have been looking for a typical diner experience ever since arriving in Washington. One morning last week, with no food at home, we went in search of somewhere to have breakfast. We started at a diner down the road, but the light wasn’t right for photos. And so we drove south to our favourite village, Fairhaven. But that diner only opened at lunchtime, with hamburgers and ‘shakes its speciality. Of course, Google is your friend and with its help we found another diner somewhere in between the other two. 

From the outside, “My Diner” doesn’t look like a diner you might see in the movies but inside it seems as typical as I imagined. The breakfasts were huge, my coffee mug never ran dry, and every staff member came over to chit-chat. Hey, even some of the patrons would lean over their seats and shout out something to add to the conversation. I even found space for try some of their famous strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream. And before the end of the meal I had been told about Jesus and invited to church by two different people.

These few weeks in the north-west corner of Washington State have made me feel normal again. They’ve not only swelled my stomach, but also my soul. 

Thou shalt cram as many things as possible into one day, or fall down trying

I didn’t blog much while in Edmonton because I didn’t want to bore you with stories of my daily trips to coffee shops, or the amazing meals we enjoyed, mostly at Asian-style eateries. But on this one particular day we fitted in so many things, I figure it was blog-worthy.

It went something like this:

From the south side we drove north of the river to our first stop, Rogue Wave Coffee, and the best coffee I’ve had in all of Canuckistan. Their Ethiopian Blend, with its fruity undertones, was simply sublime! From there it was off to Duchess Bake Shop for their peerless macarons and then to The Barking Buffalo Café for another coffee. I’m used to doing most of my coffee shop crawling alone, but discovered that having a three-year-old as company forces one to eat any treats as quickly as possible. “What’s yours is mine” is his mantra when it comes to sweets. At least he had his own steamed milk drink, which meant he didn’t try to steal any of my coffee. His ever-present dinosaur on the other hand …

After the snacks and coffees we took a break outdoors at a little oasis in the middle of suburbia: the Alexander Circle park, where the three-year-old ran around and around the fountain to burn off excess energy, and celebrated Autumn with piles of yellow leaves. A garage sale was next on the agenda. He asked if I would buy him a chic pair of ski goggles and I got myself a t-shirt. We had noodles at some Korean place in Strathcona, took photos of graffiti after lunch and then headed for home, where I collapsed for a much-needed 10-minute nap …

I’m not sure I would have survived the rest of the day without my siesta because in the evening I found myself babysitting the three-year-old. Yes, the one who had threatened to cut my face off earlier in my stay. There was the cajoling and bribing with chocolate to finish his food, watching cartoons, brushing of teeth, reading multiple books to help him sleep and forgetting to sing to him.  But before I had even turned off the light and closed the bedroom door quietly behind me, I could hear the deep, measured breathing of a sleeping toddler.

In no time I too was asleep, in front of the TV, cozy under a fluffy comforter, dreaming about a full, varied, and most enjoyable day with friends.


SABÀ. Simply great coffee

RM6_5624When I first arrived in Canuckistan, the friends I was staying with in Fort Langley took me to a new little café/bistro which opened earlier this year. It’s called SABÀ which, loosely translated, means “plenty,” “to be satisfied” or “to have one’s fill” in Hebrew. And it’s true to its name.

In previous visits I had been disappointed with the coffee shops in trendy Fort Langley, but SABÀ has definitely filled the gap. Their décor is warm and earthy, creating a fabulous ambiance for long, lazy visits with friends or family.  Importantly, SABÀ’s baristas are well-trained and consistently produce impeccable lattes, which many reviewers online seem to agree with me about.

But if there is one thing that sets SABÀ apart, its that it feels like home. Its friendly, family vibe is directly attributed to Kiko and Simone Campani, its hands-on, genial owners, and their three daughters, all of whom work in the bistro. I wish I could describe Kiko, in all his Italian exuberance, bounding out of the kitchen to say hi, but you would have to visit SABÀ to experience him for yourself!

Sadly, I didn’t get to taste and enjoy the café’s delicious-looking continental-style meals in my short time in Fort Langley.

Next time!

Danielle, the barista featured in this post, and one of the Campani girls, is also their photographer. You can click here for their Facebook & Instagram accounts!

An unexpected evening photo shoot in Edmonton

“Let’s go out for ice cream … or something,” I suggested to my friends here in Edmonton late one afternoon.

They agreed, and we headed downtown. What started out as a trip for creamy goodness, however, became an impromptu photo shoot at the Muttart Conservatory including cool little shots like these:

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From there we went for supper (still no ice cream) to the Sugarbowl Bar and Café in Garneau. For starters we enjoyed smoked paprika popcorn – sounds bizarre but it was amazing! For mains I chose a salmon salad with a nice little rosé. I wish I still drank beer because their selection of over 100 international beers looked incredible! Even their bathrooms were pretty exotic.

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From there we went for a short walk to find a vantage point from which to shoot the city and high level bridge, but to no avail. That took us back to the car, and an adventure drive – all for my benefit – while the toddler slept. Although I hadn’t brought my tripod, I still managed to shoot the following photos handheld. We never found ice cream, but it was a most enjoyable impromptu evening of photos, good food and first-rate company.

Ghostly house

Edmonton at night, with the new bridge under construction

The high level bridge, past the Kinsmen Club

The High Level Bridge and a ghostly dead tree from the south bank

“Drive-by shooting” on the 105 St. Bridge.

Driving on the High Level Bridge. (I was the passenger.)

A little snack at Little Brick

I am no coffee snob, and since arriving in Canuckistan two months ago I have downed my fair share of Timmy’s coffee. Since getting to Edmonton, however, I have discovered that the people who work at Timmy’s do not seem to understand my accent when I order through one of those drive-through speaker thingies.

And so I have decided, while in the big city (comparatively speaking) that I am going to search out individual, trendy coffee shops, where I get to order fancy coffee face to face with the server.

Fortunately I have a pair of purveyors of said coffee spots as company here, to figuratively show me the ropes and literally take me to the best spots. One of those was “Little Brick” in one of the city’s small, well-established, tree-lined communities. As my friend Helen put it over at her blog, “Sometimes you just need to go to a coffee shop in a historic house with a red door located in the middle of a residential area.”

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Little Brick is run in the original 1903 home of J.B. Little, owner of the brickyard, which was started there in the late 1800s. After being occupied by his descendants for nearly a century, the little brick house was sold in 2000, and gradually fell into disrepair over the next decade. With the threat of demolition hanging over it, Little Brick was bought by a developer in 2014. It now stands sandwiched between more modern developments and is home to the quaint cafe, a store and several spaces for special events.  I loved the decor, especially the old photographs. There was a large outdoor dining area – which we chose on the sunny day we were there – as well as a few cosy rooms that would be perfect on cold winter’s days.

(Yes, you can click on the individual thumbnails for bigger versions.)

Their coffee was, indeed, pretty tasty, and their food was even tastier. I don’t do the whole gluten thing unfortunately, so my options on a menu are normally pretty limited, but here I chose bacon and eggs on gluten-free bread. Not only was it beautifully presented, but it was delicious and very filling – just what I needed to give me the strength for the rest of the day of shooting the city!

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“After Work”

Yesterday I popped up to Switzerland to take some photos for a friend. Others might call it work, I call it fun … I love looking for the art in electrical reticulation systems …

But I digress. At the end of the day, after photographing who knows how many DB boards, power networks, substations and transformers, and having forgotten about lunch completely, we went out for a beer and some snacks to La Fumisterie Chez Ernest Restaurant in Rue des Noirettes, Geneva.

How fortunate that we arrived while they were serving their speciality antipasti. The beer was cold, the vibe warm and all the waiters un-like typical French waiters (that is to say, they were all most friendly).

La Fumisterie‘s catchphrase is “Food & Flavours of the Mediterranean”. They make great saucisson in-house and I can highly recommend their other cold meats.

That was pretty much my experience of Geneva – basements and La Fumisterie … (Oh, and being stuck in traffic). I’m sorry, I’ll try a little harder next time to bring you all something a bit more interesting.

La Fumisterie Chez Ernest at 7pm
La Fumisterie Chez Ernest at 7pm

In-house saucisson drying
In-house saucisson drying

Wine and out-of-focus patrons
Wine and out-of-focus patrons

Happy Hour Reflections
Happy Hour Reflections

It's a sign
It’s a sign

Nearly done
Nearly done

Tree! (Outside, obviously)
Tree! (Outside, obviously)


On-tap barman
On-tap barman

Shadows of a cocktail
Shadows of a cocktail

Ze snacks, oui.
Ze snacks, oui.