I’ve been putting a fair bit of effort in to sur­round­ing myself with French lan­guage media and con­ver­sa­tion as I begin the learn­ing process.  While I’m still quite hope­less­ly lost with con­ver­sa­tion­al French, the sounds are becom­ing more famil­iar and some vocab­u­lary is start­ing to stick…  Bateau, ciseau..   :)

Hav­ing popped down to the US to see some fam­i­ly over the Christ­mas break has some­what short-cir­cuit­ed this habit though, so now that the fes­tiv­i­ties are com­plete, I’ve repaired to a cafe to soak my ears in my French only Spo­ti­fy playlist.  In research­ing some new songs and artists to grow the list today, I came across this Wikipedia entry about Wade Hemsworth, the com­pos­er of an old Cana­di­an Favourite, The Log Driver’s Waltz, and I was pleased to learn that there’s even a French ver­sion, trans­lat­ed by Philippe Tatartch­eff that’s just as beau­ti­ful as the Eng­lish one that you may well know, and will most cer­tain­ly love!

And as youtube does so well, it was fol­lowed up short­ly by this beau­ty from Félix Leclerc:

For those of you who haven’t yet had the plea­sure of hear­ing the oth­er ver­sion of The Log Driver’s Waltz:

And as an added bonus, we’ll fin­ish off with anoth­er Wade Hemsworth tune about yet anoth­er very Cana­di­an tra­di­tion..  The Black Fly

I hope you’ve had a won­der­ful hol­i­day sea­son filled with good food, and your favourite peo­ple. You, my favourite peo­ple, scat­tered about this beau­ti­ful globe were here with me in spir­it and in my thoughts.  Be well friends!   –J

Went for a wan­der about Que­béc today with a real­ly love­ly French cou­ple that’ve been stay­ing here at the same airbnb. Such a spec­tac­u­lar loca­tion, and good peo­ple (along with some tasty food) made for a won­der­ful day. I’m not much for words tonight, but this city is stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful and deserves a prop­er explo­ration.


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The last few weeks have been well spent explor­ing Mon­tréal and look­ing for a place to hang my hat this win­ter. I’ve done some research in to lan­guage schools, and will be look­ing at get­ting that set up for the new year.

In the mean­time, I’ve head­ed up to Québec City to do a quick one week course to get my head in shape to start this part of the learn­ing jour­ney.

More on this lat­er, but for now, a most­ly pic­toral post. A few images from the very beau­ti­ful dri­ve between Mon­tréal and Québec.

After an evening of real­ly great con­ver­sa­tion yes­ter­day, I popped back in to my room and start­ed to orga­nize the some of the tools and equip­ment that my dear friend Ash­ley was kind enough to ship to me. I’ve been enjoy­ing the small leather projects I’ve been doing, but I’m look­ing for­ward to build­ing some big­ger and more com­plex cre­ations.

I’ve been hav­ing trou­ble locat­ing my sewing nee­dles in the tool bag though, so I made this nee­dle pouch with a cou­ple of pieces of scrap leather.   I’ve spaced and punched all of these holes by hand, and I’m real­ly hap­py with how con­sis­tent the stitch­ing turned out.  (ignore the extra holes on the left side, that was just left­over from some­thing else and I wasn’t con­cerned about includ­ing it in some­thing so util­i­tar­i­an!) Rather than hav­ing to stitch more ver­ti­cal lines to tight­en up the pock­et, I applied a light coat of rub­ber cement inside the pouch and then pushed the nee­dles and awl tips in and cre­ates a secure stor­age spot to keep them togeth­er.

I also built that D-Ring strap which will be used in a lat­er project to secure the ring.  The sim­i­lar­ly shaped piece of leather in the back­ground was, err, prac­tice. :)

hand stitched needle pouch made from scrap leather

hand stitched nee­dle pouch made from scrap leather

Also, a lit­tle bonus for you.  I man­aged to mis­place the cam­era for a few days, but here are a few shots of my dri­ve in from Ottawa through the real­ly love­ly Que­bec coun­try­side.  The day was a bit grey, but the road along the St. Lawrence riv­er was real­ly enjoy­able.  The scale of the infra­struc­ture projects out here is only matched by the scale of the nat­ur­al fea­tures they’re har­ness­ing.  this riv­er is huge, and the dam that plugs it demands a lock to allow boat­ing traf­fic access to both sides.

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

A lock and hydro­elec­tric dam on the St. Lawrence Riv­er

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

A lock and hydro­elec­tric dam on the St. Lawrence Riv­er

The area is filled with beau­ti­ful old church­es too

Church in Southern Quebec

Church in South­ern Que­bec

Out of curios­i­ty, I stopped at a ceme­tery along the way. Not sure what I was expect­ing, I was sur­prised by the large num­ber of Eng­lish, Scot­tish, and even Ger­man names fea­tured on the stones.

Mary Graham - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Mary Gra­ham — Head­stone at a ceme­tery in South­ern Que­bec

Ross, McPhee, and Nichols - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Ross, McPhee, and Nichols — Head­stone at a ceme­tery in South­ern Que­bec

John McPhaden - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

John McPhaden — Head­stone at a ceme­tery in South­ern Que­bec

Samuel Webster - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Samuel Web­ster — Head­stone at a ceme­tery in South­ern Que­bec


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It only seems fit­ting after com­mem­o­rat­ing the vicious  cost of war that I should leave Ottawa with a lit­tle nod to a sym­bol of peace. Over the (ahem) tail end of last week, I had the great for­tune to take a course at the Ottawa City Wood­shop with the Min­i­mal­ist Wood­work­er, Vic Tes­salin (Shame­less plug, buy his new book here!).  The course focused on the essen­tial basics of wood­work­ing right from the the­o­ry side of wood­work­ing (there’s a sur­pris­ing amount of detail to be learned here) to the cut­ting my first-ever dove tail joints and the mak­ing of a small wood­en box.

Vic’s knowl­edge, expe­ri­ence and pas­sion for wood­work­ing made the course engag­ing and extreme­ly infor­ma­tive. On the third day, after learn­ing some the­o­ry and see­ing the skills demon­strat­ed, the class pro­ceed­ed to saw, chis­el and (in my case) hack away at some small pre-cut pieces of pine.   Coached along by Vic and some addi­tion­al help from Mike from the Wood­shop we pro­ceed­ed to con­struct our box­es.

I’m real­ly pleased with the result, and to add anoth­er skill to my inven­to­ry.  I’ve been doing pret­ty rudi­men­ta­ry car­pen­try for years, but prop­er join­ery is some­thing that fas­ci­nates me.   The most beau­ti­ful part of this is that aside from a cou­ple of elec­tric saw cuts to get all of our mate­ri­als ready (en mass), this whole project was done with hand tools.   As I read and watch more tuto­ri­als I’m steadi­ly real­iz­ing that hand tools are an far sight faster when you’re build­ing cus­tom pieces.   The ten­den­cy to pull out a table saw, skill saw, or sander to build sim­ple stuff is huge, and espe­cial­ly for begin­ners, they’re far less intim­i­dat­ing than some­thing like a hand plane..  Which real­ly is counter-intu­itive..

Let me tell you though, mak­ing shav­ings with a hand plane is OH-so sat­is­fy­ing..   Sooooo much sat­is­fy…

Made a dovetailed box at the Ottawa City Woodshop. This is the final product, and I'm super pleased with how it turned out.

Made a dove­tailed box at the Ottawa City Wood­shop. This is the final prod­uct, and I’m super pleased with how it turned out.

Seri­ous­ly, if you’re in, near or trav­el­ling past Ottawa any time soon, go take a course.. These guys are awe­some!

But wait, there’s more..

So, I’ve got to con­fess.   While I’ve been on a bit of a min­i­mal­ism kick late­ly, I’ve been find­ing myself going a lit­tle stir-crazy with­out hav­ing tools to make, build and cre­ate..   I’m wait­ing on some of my stuff to arrive from Cal­gary, and that will help, but I couldn’t help myself any longer, so I tracked down Zelikovitz Leathers in Ottawa, and bought some basic sup­plies to do a bit of leather work. I tried to get stuff  that I didn’t already have, and now I’ll have a pret­ty well round­ed kit when the rest gets here.  It’s also worth men­tion­ing that the ladies at the shop were incred­i­bly help­ful and very friend­ly and I’ll def­i­nite­ly be back when I’m through town again. I did find leather prices quite a bit more expen­sive than my favourite shop in Cal­gary (Buck­skin Leather) but their selec­tion of equip­ment and tools was awe­some..

I’ve want­ed to build myself a wal­let for a while, and nev­er quite got around to doing it, so after the wood­shop course was done last night, I stayed up a bit late and built one..  I’m super-pleased with the result of this one too.   My stitch­ing is a bit askew at the cor­ner, but over­all it seems to hold my cards real­ly well, and I’m super pleased with the Zelikovitz brand Mid­night Blue leather dye.  It’s water based, and super-easy to clean up for a slop­py mak­er like this guy!

A day of Creativity, new wallet and my first-ever dovetailed box.

A day of Cre­ativ­i­ty, new wal­let and my first-ever dove­tailed box.

I even made a sheath for the stitch­ing chis­el that I picked up Zelikovitz; these are an in-house brand and super sharp!

(Sor­ry about the colour on this pho­to, I’m try­ing to get this post pub­lished and well, the colour cor­rec­tion depart­ment is on hol­i­day..)

Made a sheath for my perforating chisel.

Made a sheath for my per­fo­rat­ing chis­el.


As my learn­ing jour­ney here in Ontario begins, I have left the won­der­ful home of my hosts Dave and Simone, and head­ed for Ottawa in time to attend the Remem­brance Day cer­e­monies in our nation’s cap­i­tal, Ottawa. This jour­ney is as much about learn­ing new skills as it is about under­stand­ing what it is to be Cana­di­an, and I feel that spend­ing time in this part of the coun­try is essen­tial to achiev­ing a more com­plete under­stand­ing of the lat­ter.

In my youth, and as a mem­ber of an Air Cadets squadron I par­tic­i­pat­ed in more than a few wreath lay­ing cer­e­monies. Back then we unques­tion­ing­ly donned woolen socks, long sweaters and trench coats to parade in frigid tem­per­a­tures at a vari­ety of ceno­taphs and war memo­ri­als to hon­our our fall­en sol­diers. At the time, it seemed a tiny sac­ri­fice in com­par­i­son to the one we were salut­ing.

Since those days, I’ve seen much more of the world, and acquired what I hope is a more com­plete under­stand­ing of how the world oper­ates. It’s also my hope that I’ve devel­oped a bit more wis­dom, and the capa­bil­i­ty to think for myself.  I’ve long strug­gled with the oft repeat­ed mes­sage “lest we for­get” and with every year that pass­es my frus­tra­tion grows.  My hope with attend­ing the cer­e­mo­ny here was to con­nect with what it means to Cana­di­ans, or Cana­di­ans in the cap­i­tal, or even just what it means. I went with an open mind.

I watched as men, women and an assort­ment of teenagers in pointy hats, and fuzzy hats, and cir­cu­lar hats, and flop­py hats all marched past me.  I lis­tened to the con­ver­sa­tion of col­lege stu­dents, home mak­ers, and retired mil­i­tary per­son­nel that sur­round­ed me in the crowd.  We all watched as dig­ni­taries showed up for their duties, but it wasn’t until the parade of vet­er­ans arrived that I real­ized how emp­ty these words we utter so repeat­ed­ly real­ly are.

I grew up in a time when the num­ber of WWI & II vet­er­ans was dwin­dling and Kore­an war vets were also in short sup­ply; Cypress was but a text­book mem­o­ry.  Every year of parade saw less vet­er­ans and small­er cer­e­monies. It was almost a mark of pride that we had none to replace them as they died of old age.  What shocked me with the Ottawa parade was the num­ber of young vet­er­ans present. As I watched them march past, the real­iza­tion that we have indeed ignored the mes­sage hit me full-force.  We here in Cana­da (aid­ed by our inter­na­tion­al part­ners no doubt) have come up with increas­ing­ly effec­tive and stu­pid ways of wast­ing human life, destroy­ing fam­i­lies and mud­dy­ing our name inter­na­tion­al­ly.

In my crit­i­cism, I nev­er want to under­mine the efforts, and the legit­i­mate sac­ri­fices that our mil­i­tary per­son­nel have all made in their var­i­ous deploy­ments, but I do ques­tion the rea­son for most deploy­ments in recent his­to­ry. I’ve always believed that mil­i­tary should pri­mar­i­ly be a defence force, and as a Cana­di­an I’ve sat back and watched our mil­i­tary be con­vert­ed to an inter­na­tion­al aggres­sive police force as a result of polit­i­cal pos­tur­ing.  I do have great hopes for our new gov­ern­ment, and a new era of peace­ful inter­na­tion­al behav­iour. Time will tell whether this will change.

With that, I shall step down from my soap box, and share some images of the day’s activ­i­ties.

First, the pletho­ra of ser­vice branch­es rep­re­sent­ed today:

The peo­ple keep­ing us safe today.   The real heroes of the day were real­ly the para­medics, who saved count­less sol­diers from the inevitable con­se­quences of stand­ing per­fect­ly still for long peri­ods of time.  Those who haven’t tried it, ought to before judg­ing. With­out prac­tice, it’s an incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult task.

Also, the snipers.  Prob­a­bly more there for the Prime Min­is­ter than for us as spec­ta­tors.


Vet­er­an ser­vice dogs were well rep­re­sent­ed in the crowd today too.

Veteran service dog

And a few shots of the tomb of the unknown sol­dier, sur­round­ed by onlook­ers lay­ing pop­pies.  The wreaths were laid at the base of an enor­mous stone and cast sculp­ture depict­ing our troops charg­ing in to bat­tle.

On the lighter side, I caught my first glimpse and took a tour of our Par­lia­ment build­ing today:

The Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canada

The Par­lia­ment Build­ing in Ottawa, Cana­da

And had my first ever beaver tail. Yes, they’re deli­cious, and no, I’m not going to share.

Well, okay, maybe if you ask nice­ly. :)

A cinnamon and sugar beaver tail. The classic, and a very Canadian experience.

A cin­na­mon and sug­ar beaver tail. The clas­sic, and a very Cana­di­an expe­ri­ence.

Over­all, it was an inter­est­ing day spent sur­round­ed by a peo­ple unit­ed.  I’ve not man­aged to get any clos­er to rec­on­cil­ing my feel­ings on the cer­e­mo­ny but I’ve added anoth­er expe­ri­ence in my quest to under­stand what this place is all about.

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