Window into January

Joining in on Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up in 2018 was a lot of fun. For 2019, instead of having a theme that changes monthly, the format is a little different. The prompt for the entire year is Windows – which, along with doors, is one of my favourite photographic subjects. Lucky me!

Laura-Secord-Homestead-Niagara-on-the-LakeFrom my archives comes this charming vignette taken at the Laura Secord Homestead in Queenston, near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. History buffs will know that American-born Laura Ingersoll Secord (1775-1868) lived with her husband, James, in this house during the War of 1812.

James Secord served in the 1st Lincoln Militia under Isaac Brock when the war broke out, and was amongst those who carried away his commander’s body after Brock was killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. Secord himself was seriously wounded during the battle, and his wife Laura oversaw his months-long recuperation. In May 1813, Queenston and the Niagara area fell to the Americans with the capture of Fort George. The town was occupied by U.S. soldiers, some of whom billeted in the Secord home.

Laura Secord’s claim to fame as a Canadian heroine came when, according to tradition, she overheard the soldiers discussing plans to ambush British troops stationed at nearby Beaver Dams in the summer of 1813. Leaving behind her wounded husband and their five children, 37-year-old Laura set out early the next morning, making the 20-mile (32 km) trek through dense bush, clad only in her regular clothes and ballet-slipper-like shoes, until she came upon a camp of Mohawk warriors. Guides led her the rest of the way to the British headquarters, where she warned their Lieutenant of the impending attack. Because of Secord’s information, the British and their Indian allies were ready for the ambush and defeated the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams.

We toured the historic homestead just one year shy of the 200th anniversary of Laura Secord’s heroic odyssey. The photo shows a games table set for the pleasure of two gentlemen, perhaps James and a fellow military man, with their wine glasses, playing cards and pipes at the ready.



tree-with-white-lightsSeasonal decorations, with all their glitter and shine, are pretty much a given for Wild Daffodil’s December photo challenge, Glitz. And what greater way to celebrate the winter solstice – when the wheel of the year turns, and we anticipate the return of the sun and longer days – than with a twinkle or two? A couple of evenings this week after work, I roamed the streets of Victorian-era Brampton, delighting in the display of lights, festive music and wintry activities. I even visited familiar friends, all decked out for the holidays. The old city may not have snow at the moment, but it’s got an abundance of glam and glitz!

gage-park-bandstand-christmasIn the winter, Gage Park, nestled beside City Hall, is transformed into a public skating trail. The rink winds through illuminated trees and sculptures, and in the centre sits an historic bandstand, dressed to the nines for Christmas. Here, the ice had just been groomed, so it looks like the pavilion sits beside a glassy lake. As I snapped this shot, families were having a grand old time skating and bopping along to “Feliz Navidad” over the loudspeaker.

winter-trees-christmas-lightsThe park’s many trees are so artfully lit. Some are dressed in single colours…

christmas-lights-on-tree…and others wear rainbow hues.

moose-christmas-light-sculptureThere are also lighted sculptures dotting the trail, a moose family amongst them.

fairy-door-with-lightsMoving from the holiday hubbub of downtown to a quiet residential neighbourhood, I revisited some whimsical installations which I first wrote about in May. I was happy (and not surprised) to see they bear all the trappings of the season! The first is Haywoods Hollow, a tree house extraordinaire occupied, obviously, by décor-conscious faeries. This 7-foot-tall house boasts illuminated windows with homey scenes inside, a lantern, a tree-mailbox bearing the street number of 17 ½ (I tried to leave an offering inside, but it doesn’t open), and a brightly-painted door guarded by a wizardly Father Christmas. There were gifts from other passersby, including pots of greenery, shiny baubles and snuggly faerie-sized sweaters, hats and mitts. Of course the house has its own faerie lights, a wreath and a stocking ready to be filled by Santa. You can read about and see more pictures of Haywoods Hollow here.

miniature-castle-with-holiday-lightsAnd in another garden is this “miniature” stone castle, built in the early ’60s by the homeowner for his children. The castle of Kodor’s House is also a famous local landmark. I see that its complement of gnomish guardians, which you can just see peeking from the window, bottom right, has increased since the last time I visited. Clearly, they’ve been taking their decorating duties very seriously, festooning their abode in festive finery and creating a garden candyland.

sparkle-winter-treeMy last stop – a showstopper, to be sure – was Garden Square, a public meeting place located at Brampton’s original four corners. This huge, stunning tree is a wonder of gently-twinkling, snow-white lights – and the message it bears is just so beautiful. I spent a magickal few minutes alone in the deserted square, sitting on a bench sipping a hot drink and gazing at it, mesmerized. It was as if the tree was there, silent and sparkling, just for me.

Wherever you are this Yuletide, whether or not you celebrate – I wish you a wonderfully relaxing and meaningful holiday – sprinkled with a dusting of glitz!


Joining in with Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up, the prompt for November is Patina. Age-worn metal, lovingly polished wood, and stone left to the elements all produce beautiful objects with the patina of time passed (and past).

vintage-advertising-signsThis century-old barn is home to the Cookstown Antique Market just north of Toronto, Ontario. You’ve seen some of the lovely things I’ve found inside the barn recently; this is the weathered exterior with vintage metal advertising signs showing lots of patina.

vintage-kitchen-tools-with-patinaI’ve also written plenty of times about our 107-year-old summer cottage in Muskoka. These well-used household implements gathered on a wood-burning iron stove in the kitchen certainly show their age; I added a vintage effect to the photo just for fun.

cathedral-door-detailNot forgetting the patina of old wood, here is a detail from a set of cathedral doors (built 1933) in Hamilton, Ontario.

mile-marker-at-Stonehenge-dated-1764Stone can develop patina, too. On a trip to England and Wales about 25 years ago (has it really been that long??), we found this distance marker at Stonehenge, beautifully weathered and covered with lichen. It’s dated 1764 – two centuries before I was born! – and shows the number of miles from London (seventy-nine, from what I can make out) plus an indistinguishable number from Andover. It would be interesting to know if any of my British blogger friends have also seen this monument!


crystal-ball-photography-spring-treesThe prompt for this month’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up from Wild Daffodil is Tree. This is my interpretation: a springtime forest and a patch of autumn woods as seen through a crystal photographic sphere.

I purchased this glass ball to try refraction photography. It’s an 80 mm crystal-clear globe, a gadget that promises to be super fun to play with. I’ve only used it a few times so far whilst on walks in the woods, so my images have all been treescapes. The list of possible subjects is endless: landscapes, beaches and waves, buildings and cityscapes, flowers, insects, pets, etc. The tiny bubble-encapsulated microcosm set against a blurred or bokehed background is what makes this type of photography most artful, and I’ve only used it in the most conventional sense so far, so I can’t wait to really get stuck in!

crystal-ball-photography-autumn-woodsAnd now, some physics. You’ll notice that the images within the sphere are upside down. Here’s my rather simple understanding of Index of Refraction. (With apologies to physicists everywhere.) A material’s refractive index is a number which describes the ways light travels through that material, or medium. When light enters a medium with a different index of refraction, such as water or glass, it changes speed. And, depending on the angle of the light source relative to the surface of the medium, the light rays may also change direction. An inverted image is only created when the medium is a converging lens (thicker in the middle than at the edges), such as our sphere. Hey, presto! Isn’t that just a little bit magickal?!

Photographers using a globe like this have some choices to make: keep the refracted image inverted in the final photo, or flip it so the image appears right side up. This affects the way you compose the photo. I think I prefer the inverted ones; keeps it more interesting, no?

Word is you need a zoom or macro lens for this technique. I’ve no doubt they yield awesome results, but I don’t have one, so I just used my smartphone. Photography sites offer tips and tricks for using these spheres, and I still have a lot of experimenting to do, but I was pleased with these early results.

I do love trees, and they’re one of my favourite subjects to photograph. I’m on the lookout for a lone specimen with an interesting shape or lovely gnarled branches for my next global adventure!

Next month’s prompt is Patina.


I have to admit, this month’s prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up was a bit perplexing. What, after all, could I do with a cue like Case?

I’ve got vintage and antiques on the brain lately, so much so that this blog’s theme for September is “Vintage Memories”. At the beginning of the month, I spent a leisurely afternoon at a country antiques market housed in a century-old barn. “The girls” and I used to go there fairly regularly, but those shopping excursions eventually stopped, and I hadn’t visited the place for about twenty years. So the act of returning to that barn – familiar yet new again – brought back very fond memories. For a couple of hours that day, I had a good browsle (that’s a browse + ramble). Or did I enjoy a good brummage (browse + rummage)? I went there with a particular couple of items in mind, and I happily scored good deals on a few small pieces. They’ll soon, no doubt, make their way into an upcoming post or two.

With vintage on my mind, and pondering the case for Case, I eventually realized that I do have something for this photo challenge!

Over the years I’ve gathered a modest collection of needle cases.

Aha! You were wondering where I was going with all this, weren’t you?! Here are several types of needle case – also known as an étui – along with other sewing implements I’ve gathered over the years.

antique-sewing-implementsClockwise from bottom: This dainty sterling silver Art Nouveau needle case belonged to my grandmother and bears her monogram; it came with a few old needles and a pin with a tiny grey pearlized head (topmost in case) • Although not technically a case, this pewter magnetic needle holder is sculpted in the shape of a lady mouse with sewing needle and spool of thread; I’ve used it for nigh on 30 years • A velvet apple pincushion holds antique glass-topped stick pins • These silvery embroidery scissors are embellished with leaves and the Tudor rose • The thimble is also an antique and came to me along with the needle case.

needle-cases-pincushionClockwise from top left: This roomy needle tube, made in France of turned boxwood, was a gift from my husband after I’d complained I had no container large enough to hold my hefty darning and leatherwork needles • The classic tomato pincushion comes with an emery-filled strawberry to keep needles sharp. It holds a tiny stork scissors lapel pin • This small wooden needle case came unfinished; I gave it a few coats of beeswax polish and use it to hold cross-stitch needles • Another lapel pin, this time in the shape of a sewing bird • Ever-popular gold-plated stork scissors have been a delightful tool for many a sewing project.

medieval-sewing-toolsClockwise from top right: This handmade 4.5” needle case of spalted maple with stopper on a leather thong is a rustic repository for forged iron and bone needles, part of my collection of Dark Ages and medieval living history ‘artifacts’. (Check out the wonderful Jelling Dragon for period-accurate Celtic and Viking supplies.) • Waxed linen thread for leatherwork • Forged iron snips with leather case, also from Jelling Dragon.

I have more pincushions, too, which I’ll share some day in another post. Since many of the bloggers I know are needle and fabric artists, I would love to see your collection of sewing implements!

Cupolas, Towers and Turrets, Oh My!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!

There’s something so romantic about a lonely bell tower or rose windows of leaded glass. Or a Victorian mansion with a witch’s hat turret. Dreams of copper-clad cupolas and gazebos graced with gingerbread really get me going!

I love visiting old buildings, researching their histories and documenting them in photographs. The ones I’m interested in must be “of a certain age” (around a century or more), possess some notable architectural features or style, and have a story to tell of the area’s history and culture. And if they come with a local legend or ghost story, so much the better! I guess you could call me a veritable Collector of Curious Constructions.

Over the years, I’ve encountered quite a few with fairytale towers and turrets. Here are just some of them, with a bit of history thrown in:

old-house-with-turretJames G. Ramsey House • 49 McKenzie Avenue, Toronto, ON
Built as a grand private residence in 1896, this house is situated in Toronto near the site of the former Castle Frank, summer home of Upper Canada’s first lieutenant-governor, John Graves Simcoe. I haven’t been able to find any information about Ramsey, unfortunately. However, with its odd circular balcony and witch-hat turret, his mansion certainly makes the perfect Hallowe’en house!

credit-valley-railway-station-streetsvilleCredit Valley Railway Station • 78 William Street, Streetsville, ON
Around the time that I was planning this post, I stumbled across this peculiar building purely by accident, when I was forced to take a detour to work! Built circa 1879, the station was painted white instead of the usual “railroad red” typical of early stations. The corner turret provided a clear view of the tracks and served as the telegraph operator’s office. The station was constructed near the end of the railroad heyday and soon became obsolete; it was moved by horse-drawn cart to its current location in 1914. It is now used by the Victorian Order of Nurses.

blue-house-with-turret-brampton234 Main Street North, Brampton, ON
This Queen Anne residence, circa 1882, features fish scale shingles (common in historic Brampton houses), the original front door, ornate iron weather vane, and a polygon corner turret.

house-with-corner-turret-packham-bramptonGeorge W. Packham House • 27 Wellington Street East, Brampton, ON
Packham was the owner of Brampton Brick, a company still in existence, and this Queen Anne house was built for him in 1892 using materials from the brickworks. Whoever stays in the fairytale corner turret bedroom is fortunate, indeed! It features fish scale shingles, a dormer window with pierced wood decoration, bracketed cornices and a flying goose weather vane.

old-post-office-cambridgeGalt Post Office • 33 Water Street North, Cambridge, ON
Overlooking the Grand River, the former Galt Post Office (built 1885) was designed by Thomas Fuller, architect of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings and many other public buildings, including 80 post offices. Their construction was part of a national program to establish a firm federal presence with prominent edifices in smaller communities across the country. Now a National Historic Site, the old post office is in the High Gothic style with Romanesque and Second Empire features. Local legend (likely concocted by an Irish pub that once inhabited the building) has it that the postmaster conducted an illicit love affair with an employee but broke it off to save his marriage. The love story ended in tragedy when, a few days later, the young lady’s lifeless body was found hanging from the rafters of the clock tower. I visited the pub once and felt odd sensations when I stood at the base of the tower steps, and in the creepy basement.

toronto-necropolis-chapel-bell-towerToronto Necropolis Chapel • 200 Winchester Street, Toronto, ON
Opened in 1850 to replace a smaller Potter’s Field (a.k.a. ‘Strangers’ Burying Ground’), the Necropolis cemetery is the resting place of over 50,000 souls, including many prominent figures such as William Lyon McKenzie (Toronto’s first mayor and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion), George Brown (a Father of Confederation and founder of what is now the Globe and Mail), Thornton Blackburn (former slave who made his way to Canada via the “Underground Railroad” and established Toronto’s first cab company), Roy Brown (WWI RAF officer credited with shooting down the “Red Baron”) and Ned Hanlan (world champion oarsman). The adjacent chapel, with its Gothic Revival arches, stained glass and spired bell tower, was built in 1872. Ontario’s first crematorium was added to the site in 1933.

carnegie-library-old-fire-hall-bramptonOld Fire Hall • 2 Chapel Street, Brampton, ON
This Romanesque structure is Brampton’s oldest municipal building. It started life in 1854 as the market and town hall and became the fire hall when the 40-foot bell tower was added two decades later. The tower had a secondary purpose: the fire hoses were hung from it to dry. To the left of the fire hall is the Carnegie Library, a rare Beaux Arts building erected in 1906. The library is one of 156 Canadian libraries funded by Scottish steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Only ninety of these structures still exist.

house-wtih-castle-tower-mcintosh-castle-kingstonMcIntosh Castle • 14 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
Kingston is chock-a-block full of fascinating architecture. Nestled in a quiet downtown neighbourhood is McIntosh Castle, a Gothic Revival villa built starting in 1849 for Donald McIntosh, a ship owner. A local story says that McIntosh promised his family a castle with a lake view to induce them to move to Canada from Scotland. Sadly, the family never got to live there; McIntosh ran out of money and sold the house in 1850. The villa was completed by successive owners. Another rather macabre legend says that, in later years, the crenellated tower containing a widow’s walk was added so that the lady of the house could sit in comfort with her tea and watch hangings at the gallows of the courthouse next door!

boldt-castle-thousand-islandsBoldt Castle • Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY
Located in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River, Boldt Castle (above) was built in the Châteauesque style in 1900 by millionaire George C. Boldt (proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City) as a present for his wife, Louise. The 6-storey, 120-room castle was still under construction in 1904 when Louise died suddenly. Heartbroken and inconsolable, Boldt halted construction and never returned to the island, leaving the buildings to the elements for over 70 years. The castle and other structures, including the Power House (below, left) and Alster Tower (below, right) were acquired by the Bridge Authority in the 1970s, restored and opened to the public. We viewed these fanciful buildings from our tour boat on the river; the island is a point of entry from Canada to the United States, so a passport is required to visit!boldt-castle-power-house-alster-tower


The August prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up is Flake. At our old wooden cottage, more than a century old, there are examples of weathered, peeling paint galore. (Seems like we just finish painting the house, and it’s time to start again!) These photos are my flaky interpretations.

This north-facing door bears the brunt of winter storms off the lake – and never seems to hold its paint!

The weathered old shed holds the paraphernalia of summer: swim toys, gardening tools and these peeling paddles and oars.

In the dictionary next to “shabby chic” is a picture of this dresser. My mother is always after me to refinish its flaking pale cream paint, but I like it just the way it is.

Original hardware that’s stood the test of time.

A Muskoka chair past its glory days subsides slowly on the shore.