Tag Archives: blogging

What I’ve been reading lately

With all the work going on at our downstairs neighbors and all the time I’ve been spending outside the house and trying to unwind at the end of the day, I’ve been doing more reading than usual lately. The book I finished most recently in Jan-Philipp Sendker’s ‘The Art of Hearing Heartbeats’. It is part love story, part mystery and a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable read. It is also a great way to be transported into a part of the World that is completely different  from my corner of the planet since most of the events take place in Burma. A trip outside my town is just what the doctor ordered these days and the book is so well written that I could nearly feel the thick, muggy Burmese air and smell the spices from the food described in the book while I was reading it.


Since finishing Sendker’s book, I have moved on to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I didn’t know that Elizabeth Gilbert had a new book out until I came across a Tweet about it on the feed of a food blogger I follow and it immediately went onto my list of books to purchase. I will admit to having trouble letting my guard down when writing and so far Gilbert’s book has been slowly helping me to let go of that, which is a good thing because I don’t get nearly as much content onto my two blogs as I could, plagued as I am by self-doubt and dogged by a fear of what anyone who knows me will think of both my writing and photographic abilities. As a child and teenager I was nothing but one big ball of creativity. I sang and danced every day like no one was watching me, I drew and painted and sculpted without inhibition, I even made jewelry for my mom and as a teenager I would churn our pages and pages of short stories every single day. Then I had a few setbacks in my creative endeavors and I stopped creating until I got my first blog going back in 2009. I blogged and snapped photos steadily until my father got sick and passed away. His death really knocked the stuffing out of me and I turned out almost nothing for two years until I started writing here. I am hoping that ‘Big Magic’ will continue to help me trust my creative abilities a bit more every day and I recommend it to all of you, my fellow bloggers, whether you have trouble embracing your creativity or not, because it is worth the read just to soak up Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful, unguarded writing style.


On another note, the work at our downstairs neighbors place continues, as does the noise and the discovery of hidden faults with our own house (hello, shoddily braced up rotten joists under our bathtub that if not found might have resulted in an embarrassing, costly situation where our tub might have ended up on top of the downstairs tub, hopefully when both were unoccupied). Oh and the slip-ups by the workers downstairs that generally involve the cutting or removal of wires presumed dead which are actually live and connected to our entryway lights or alarm system *sigh*. I told my Darling last night that if I could have, I would have bought a plane ticket right that moment and flown the heck out of here today and not come back until I was well and properly unwound, but I can’t do that. I can’t leave him here to deal with all of this mess by himself, it just wouldn’t be fair, no matter how sick of all this and exhausted I am. I just have to keep telling myself that each day of work that gets done downstairs brings us one day closer to the end of this whole noisy fiasco and keep mentally transporting myself to my happy place, Prince Edward Island. Sometimes my memories of our time there last Summer are the only things that keep me sane.



St.Joseph’s Oratory

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you just can’t write and that’s what has been going on with me lately, largely because of the events in Paris last week. I had a pretty strong post coming along in my head, but after the attacks, it just seemed so trivial. I’m normally a very happy, positive, fun-loving person and I strive to reflect that here on my blog, so I suppose that’s why I got writers block. I just wasn’t feeling like myself, but I think I’ve started to work that out of my system. That and after a visit to St.Joseph’s Oratory on Monday, I knew that the Oratory was just what I needed to write about. I have always had a thing for churches and although I have visited many stunning churches in Europe, the United States and at home here in Canada, the Oratory is still my favorite. It may not be a jaw dropper in terms of its interior, but in my mind that only adds to its charm. Also, its impressive size and the number of steps there are from street level up to the Basilica on the top floor makes the competition look silly ”You’re flamboyant neo-gothic? Well, I have 283 steps up to my front porch, so there!”. And fear not, if stairs are not your thing, there’s a shuttle bus to replace the first 99 stairs. It gets you to the main entrance level and then there are escalators and elevators inside, or more staircases. They just want to make sure there’s something for everyone, you know?

St. Joseph’s Oratory seen from street level in early Spring.

So, how did we end up with this beautiful shrine in Montreal? It all started with this fella, Brother André.

This bronze statue of St. Brother André can be found beside what is left of the original Oratory.

He came to Montreal in 1870 to join the Catholic order of Holy Cross brothers, whose novitiate was housed in Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur College (that’s a private high school, we call them colleges here in Québec), just across the street from where the Oratory is now.

A partial view of Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur college all decked out for Christmas. The school has existed on its present site since 1869.

The brothers almost didn’t keep Brother André past his novitiate because of his frail health, but the bishop of Montreal at the time, Mgr. Bourget, intervened on his behalf after being impressed by André’s piousness and his strong desire to remain with the order and he took his perpetual vows in 1874. Lucky for the Order that the Bishop intervened, because Brother André turned out to be more than just your average Brother! His health was delicate (he was born with an undiagnosed stomach ailment that stayed with him throughout his life and prevented him from eating normally) and he didn’t have the necesary education to teach like the other brothers, so he was made the porter of the school and its Jack-of-all-trades. His tasks included helping out in the infirmary and one day a rumor started going around that a seriously ill student had been inexplicably and suddenly cured after Brother André had sat with him and they had prayed to St. Joseph together. St.Joseph, that’s a statue of him in the picture below, is a Saint of the Catholic church who is known for curing the sick and infirm, among other things.

The Statue of St-Joseph that stands in the Oratory’s Votive chapel. The chapel holds 10 000 votive lamps and this stand alone contains 3500. Each candle that is lit in the chapel represents the prayer of a pilgrim.

Now, St.Joseph is a pretty popular guy and yes, that’s the same Joseph as the one made famous for marrying the virgin Mary and raising Jesus, so when word started getting around that Brother André seemed to have some sort of a direct line to him, people started showing up at Notre-Dame College asking for him. When he was at his doorkeeper’s post that wasn’t too much of a problem, especially at first when there weren’t too many pilgrims (people who travel somewhere specifically for prayer), but French Canadians in the late 19th Century were a pretty pious lot and soon the parents of the boys living at the school began complaining to Brother André’s superiors about the pilgrims who were taking the liberty of wandering around the school in order to look for Brother André when he was not in his porter’s cell. The issue was that a lot of these people were suffering from, or had been in close contact with people who were suffering from infectious diseases which were very difficult to treat at the time, such as influenza, diphtheria, scarlet fever, polio and tuberculosis and there was legitimate fear of the boys who boarded at the school being contaminated by germs. The Holy Cross order and Brother André knew that turning Pilgrims away not an option, so the order eventually gave Brother André permission to build a small oratory in honor of St.Joseph on a piece of land they owned across the street from Notre-Dame College. And voilà! we have the beginning of what was one day to become the largest shrine in the world dedicated to St.Joseph!

The 1904 (behind the steeple) and 1910 (from the steeple frontwards) sections of the original oratory.

Cute, isn’t it? There was a problem though, Brother André only had 200$, which us equivalent to about 5o00$ nowadays, with which to build his Oratory. He put every last penny he had saved giving 5 cent haircuts at the College over a 34 year period to get the chapel built and it was too small. The oratory opened its doors for the first time on October 19th of 1904 and by Winter the pilgrims were showing up to see Brother at Notre-Dame again because there was only room for 8 people at a time in the chapel and even if they could get inside the building, it was unheated. Brother André and a few of his most loyal friends began collecting donations and in under six years they were able to not only install a wood burning stove but also to enlarge the Oratory twice, first to seat 50 people and then 200. The building was still prone to chronic overcrowding however, so Brother André and his friends continued to raise funds and in 1914, work began on the Crypt-Church, which opened in 1917 and could seat 750 people. To this day, it is the busiest church on the site and the busiest Catholic church I know of anywhere in Canada. There are 7 to 8 masses a day said at the Oratory and all of them except for two on Sundays are said in the Crypt-Church.

The choir section of the Crypt-Church seen during a concert. The Crypt-Church gets its name from the fact that the Basilica was originally planned to be built directly on top of it, so it has a low ceiling supported by flattened steel arches.

Brother André knew that the Crypt-Church wouldn’t be able to hold all the masses of Pilgrims flocking to the shrine to pray St-Joseph for long though, so in 1924 work began on the Basilica, a huge church that could originally, before seats were put in and crowd regulation laws were put into place, hold 10 000 pilgrims. The Basilica took 43 years to complete because, as with the rest of the enlargements to the original shrine, it was built with donations and it was first a victim of the Great Depression and then of shifting values. It was opened for its first service in 1955 and Brother André, who passed away in 1937 at the age of 91, never got to see it completed. The interior of the Basilica was completed in 1967 in a Medieval inspired Art Deco style.

Nowadays, the Basilica seats 1 750 pilgrims on a regular Sunday, or 1 870 when chairs are added in for special occasions. Mass is said in the Basilica on Sunday mornings at 11:00 A.M. with music provided by its impressive 5811 pipe, 78 stop Beckerath organ and its boys’ choir the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal and again at 12:30 P.M. It is also used for major feast days such as Christmas, Easter and St-Joseph’s feast day on March 19th. Otherwise, seeing as regular weekday masses are attended by anywhere between 50 to 200 pilgrims at a time, the Crypt-Church is used.

All this talk of overflow may make the Oratory sound like a very busy place, it is actually very, very peaceful and there is a beautiful energy that surrounds it as soon as you set foot inside the grounds. I’m very, very fortunate to have such a beautiful place in my neighborhood and I have been to it many, many times when I was in need of comfort and peace. If ever you are in Montreal, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to visit the Oratory, even though it is a bit off the beaten tourist trail. It is quite easy to reach by public transit since two bus lines stop right in front of it (the 51 and 166) and a very major bus line stops just one corner away (the 165-435 line, the second number is the express number for rush hour). Don’t pass up a chance to visit this unique place, because believe me, you will be sorry! And yes, as with the rest of the city, it is beautiful year-round!

Now, a note about the photos in this post: you will have noticed that they are watermarked with my real name. The reason for this is that I have put some of my photos up for sale on a decorative print producer’s site that is local to Quebec photographers, but ships all over the world. When doing this, I was strongly encouraged to create a photography website, which I did. Please, feel free to visit it here and follow it! Having to watermark my photos twice was such a major hassle that I decided to bite the bullet and put my name on here. I refrained from doing this before because while I don’t care if my family knows that I have a photography blog, there are a very, very few members of my family who have been quite nasty to me on social media before, so nasty that I blocked them from my Facebook account. I don’t need that sort of grief on here when it comes to my writing and opinions. If it’s from some random reader I won’t ever have to meet face to face, I don’t care, but nastiness from family is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you occasionally have to sit down at the same dinner table as them, hence the pseudonym. I’m keeping it on my Gravatar account and have a seperate Gravatar and e-mail address for the photography blog, so I should be good, but I just wanted to clarify the change with you folks!


Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award!

I got a totally amazing surprise when I checked on my blog this morning: Sadie over at Sadie’s Nest nominated me for the Liebster Award! This is such a thrill for me  since I’m still just getting started with this blog. Thank you so much for nominating me Sadie, this award and the kind comments you always leave on my posts mean so much and are such a confidence booster for me!

Since I am just getting started here, I can’t quite stick to all the rules for the award, mainly because I am not following too many blogs yet and a lot of the ones I am following already have a huge number of followers. I hope this is not a huge deal! So here are the rules:

1 Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to his/her blog.
2 Answer the questions asked by the nominator.
3 Nominate 5 – 11 bloggers with fewer than 500 followers.
4 Answer the questions from the blogger who nominated you.
5 Create 11 questions for your nominees.

My questions from Sadie were:

Would you prefer a night at the opera or at a ball game?

-A night at the Opera, most definitely!

Who is your biggest social media influence?

-Probably Ashley, who also goes by mushroomstew in Instagram and blogs at Sed Bona, and Aimée Bourque who blogs over at Simple Bites. You should totally go out and buy her cookbook Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, it’s amazing!

What would be your perfect evening?

-Sitting out on a dock beside a lake with my Darling gazing at a sky filled with Northern Lights. I’ve never seen Norther Lights and will not leave this life until I have, even if I have to stick around until I’m 110!

What is your favorite season and why?

-Haha, too funny, I was just thinking about this one this morning! I would have to say Summer if I have to choose just one, because I love seeing the trees full of leaves and flowers blooming and being able to go outside without having to put on a million layers! In all seriousness though, I love something about every season!

You just were awarded dinner for two at a 5 star restaurant, who do you bring?

-My Darling, naturally!

Are you a big breakfast person?

-Most definitely yes! I cannot function without it, I just don’t get too fancy or creative about it because I am way too hungry when I wake up in the morning to do much more than brew tea and pour myself a bowl of cereal!

Where was your last vacation?

-Beautiful Prince Edward Island, you can read more about it here and here and I’ll be blogging more about it soon!

If you could have any one talent what would it be?

-Oh gosh, another good one. The ability to play multiple musical instruments. I already sing, but I struggle with coordination, so I’ve never been able to learn to play either the piano or the violin, which I would love to be able to do!

What is your favorite holiday?

-This is going to sound cheesy, but I think it has become Valentine’s Day. I love all Holidays, but Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that I know for certain I will not end up in a tug of war between my mom’s side of the family, my dad’s side of the family and my Darling’s family over when we are celebrating with whom! V-Day is easy, my Darling and I are spending it together, end of story!

What is the best dessert you ever ate?

-Ice cream from Kem CoBa, any flavor at all, they never, ever disappoint!

It’s your birthday and you can celebrate anywhere in the world, where are you going?

-London, England, hands down! Only because my birthday is in February and it would be just as cold and snowy if not colder and snowier in PEI than here in Montreal, so my second favorite destination wins this one!

My nominees are:

Discovering Ratchet written by an incredibly talented, honest and open blogger who happens to be one of my brother’s friends.

Expressing My Vision a blog written by a very talented amateur photographer over in England, she is the one who inspired me to post my photos online since our style is similar. She hasn’t blogged in a while and I hope that nominating her will bring her out of hiding!

That British Woman is written by Gil, I’ve been following her blog for ages, since way back when I had my first blog and she was one of my first followers at that time, so this is kudos to her for that!

Life at Golden Pines is a blog that is run by Kim, a wonderfully kind woman who fosters Golden Retrievers, many of them seniors, for a rescue organization in the US. She was another of my followers from my first blog and always had a kind word me, so this is my way of thanking her and bringing attention to all the wonderful work she does.

My Questions for my nominees are:

What made you want to start blogging?

What is your favorite vacation destination?

What is the best restaurant you ever ate at?

What is your favorite way to travel (bus, train, plane, etc.)?

What is the best beach you ever went to?

What is you favorite brand of tea (or coffee if you don’t drink tea)?

If you could be anywhere else right now, where would it be?

What’s your favorite thing about the city or town you live in?

Would you rather live in the city or the countryside?

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Would you rather spend an afternoon shopping (for fun, not for groceries!) or enjoying the outdoors?

Thanks so much once again Sadie, you’re the best!


Welcome to Old Orchard Chronicles, I’m so glad you’re here!

I’ve been working on ideas for this blog for some time and am happy that it’s finally come together. I first started blogging in 2009 when my Darling moved to Toronto for a two-year contract. I was left feeling rather disoriented and alone when he moved away and began blogging on an almost daily basis as a way t o reach out and interact with others. When he came home I began blogging less and less since we began spending more time together and then in 2012 my father became very ill with depression before passing away in 2013. You can read a bit more about him on his page where you will also find some links to mental health resources. It was such a shock when my father passed away that it took me quite some time to get my feet back under me. I tried going back to my first blog, but I just didn’t identify with it anymore because I was so completely changed from the person I was when I started it, so I decided to start again from scratch.

This blog is going to be about the things I love: music, cooking, reading, jogging, traveling, caring for our rambling old upper duplex, travelling, photography and sometimes shopping (because yes, I do love to shop sometimes!). I will also blog about things that touch me, or sometimes just things that happen in everyday life that make me go ‘What the heck???’ or ‘Hey, this happened and it was amazing!’

I can’t promise a post everyday, I will not be blogging on a schedule. I am doing this because I enjoy writing and sharing the things I love and I hope you will enjoy reading about them and if you do, please feel free to comment on my posts as I would love to hear from you!