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[To wrap up the 902 Style Files, here’s a very special guest: the Hep Kitten herself! Thanks to all the guests who filled in for me during this hectic week. If you missed any of them, check out the rest of the East Coast Guest Posts.]

By Áine (aka “Racquel Valencia”)

“Fashionable is what one wears oneself, and unfashionable is what other people wear.”

I wonder if Oscar Wilde ever envisioned that one day some chick from the Maritimes would take one of his witty little barbs and turn it into a criticism of the cookie-cutter skinny jeans and scarves hipster set. But here we are, and, like Morrissey in “Cemetery Gates”, Wilde is on my side.

Personal style is just that–personal–and maybe that’s why it eludes so many people. Clothes not only shield us from the elements, but allow us to let a bit of ourselves shine through. And why would you want to look like anyone else, much less everyone else? Without further ado, let’s take a tour of my closet.

Like what you see?

Like what you see?

Like what you see, home slice? Lotta black in there. In fact, I think I maybe own half a dozen items that aren’t black, and two of them are dark gray. Why? Equal parts deep-rooted body insecurity, Johnny Cash homage and affinity for Bauhaus and Joy Division, I’d wager.

I’ve been called “Funeral Fun Barbie” by my friends, a designation that I’m never sure exactly how to take. I like black and black likes me, which brings me to Rule #1: KNOW THY BODY AND WHAT FLATTERS IT.

Guys, this goes for you, too. Un-pop that collar, mister. It never did no one no favours.

Black DressThis is possibly my favourite dress ever. If I thought I could get away with it, I would wear it every day. It’s black, it’s lacy, it’s just the right amount of goth and cheerleader…and it attracts kittens, as evidenced by the small white kitten in the foreground (hi, Salty Bob!). I spent more on it than I have on pretty much anything else in my wardrobe, but it’s been so worth it, especially considering how much I’ve worn it.

Remember: the most expensive thing in your wardrobe is the thing you never wear. I don’t care if it cost three dollars or three hundred. Same diff, really. Rule #2: IT’S WORTH SPENDING MONEY ON SOMETHING YOU LOVE.

[photo: kimono]

Let’s get real for a second: ninety-five percent of the time when I’m home, I’m not remotely dolled up. Hells no. Ask anyone (friends, roommates, family, milkman): I’m almost always in a kimono. No ratty bathrobe for this Hep Kitten, and as far as I’m concerned sweatpants = I’ve given up on life.

Hep Kitten

Hep Kitten

Who doesn’t love being lazy and slothful? But you can still look good doing it. Legend has it that, when she went to answer the door, Marilyn Monroe would just toss a sheet and some Chanel No. 5 on. While I’m not advocating public nudity, I think there’s something to be said for Rule #3: DON’T LET YOURSELF GO. NOT EVEN FOR THE CATS.

And now, for the most important part of all, the key to beauty, style, and ass-kicking hotness: a sense of humour. As much as I delight in the dark, there’s beauty on the other side, too. Hell, if I’m only going to have six items of clothing in a colour other than Death, I may as well go the whole hog:

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Yes, it’s a tight Kelly-green minidress that say “JAMAICA” on it. I bought it for two dollars at a Goodwill store. I swear that thing gets more infamous every day.

Some of the best fashion advice I ever got was from my friend Teddy, a curvy, husky-voiced Italian from Bloor/Ossington. Her two words changed how I look at myself both physically and emotionally, and make up Rule #4: OWN IT.

Whenever I was having a fat/ugly/emo day, Teddy would remind me to own it. If I screwed something up, she’d laugh and say “own it and fuhgeddaboudit!” I find myself repeating those words on a daily basis, and I swear I’ve gotten prettier in the past two years.

Own whatever it is you’re wearing. If it’s Feed Bag Friday, rock the shit out of that burlap dress! Suit-and-Tie Monday and you’re stuck in Paisleyville? Live it up, brother, and make that paisley wonder look as awesome as chains on T-Pain. I’ve seen Teddy rock everything from Timberlands with skirts, to sweats with heels and she always looks like she was born to do it.

Racquel

Priceless

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

That may very well be, Oscar, but the right attitude is priceless.

Racquel Valencia is the nom de plume of a North End chick with an inexplicable love of Top 40 hip-hop and a well-documented obsession with 1990’s teen heartthrobs and girly men. This is what she actually looks like. Visit her at Smell the Glove.

[To me, no fashion & style week would be complete without a post about this next topic. That’s why I was happy to hear from this next blogger. Who hasn’t gone through a phase of style ennui where we stare into the depths of our closets and somehow realize we have “nothing to wear”? So, without further adieu, here’s Austin.]

By Austin Flaherty

Photo credit: natalie's new york from Flickr

Photo credit: natalie's new york from Flickr

I woke up this morning, got ready for the day and looked into my closet for something to wear, something different – maybe a shirt I forgot about or a sweater I got at Christmas; I sadly inspected the contents and nothing caught my eye. The two racks in my closet hold a gamut of black, faded black, dark grey t-shirts, some white collared shirts and several black zip-up and pull-over hoodies. The majority of what I wear is logo free, plain and solid colours. No patterns. The few logoed pieces I own are freebies, work related, or sponsored items I snagged through my paintball team. Nothing eye catching stands out. I decided on a worn pair of jeans and a zip up hoodie and entered my comfort zone.

It’s almost like I’m in a cartoon; I have very similar clothes that I rotate through weekly. My own style has become drab and routine; even I can see it at this point. I look at people’s styles for inspiration, yet I can’t find anything in the mainstream that interests me. On one hand it bothers me since it’s always the same clothes, on the other, I’m content to sit and code or watch a movie in my aging Dalhousie sweater.

Part of the problem is likely that I don’t shop for clothes often. Usually once a year for some new sneakers, maybe for a shirt if I’m going out on occasion, but never on a regular basis that I can say I see ‘new styles’. In fact I’m quite oblivious to style all together, I’m focused on what I “know” at this point and frankly it’s not a whole lot of anything. Shopping is just like going into my closet: I stick to places I know I might find another pair of jeans and cheap t-shirts. I scan the aisles and see nothing. I stumble through racks of clothes and am dismayed that I never find anything I like.

I pick out what I know and take no chances.

So where do I go from here? I’m comfortable with my choice in jeans and hoodies, but obviously I can’t live in them every day (especially in the summer!). Black hoodies and sunshine aren’t exactly a good pairing in my experience. Polo shirts? Button down shirts? SHORTS? I’m scared, but willing to try something different at this point.

I will make a pledge, right here and right now: I promise that I’ll find something to wear tomorrow that isn’t a black hoodie. The jeans might hang around for a bit longer.

Austin Flaherty is a Halifax native, the voice behind Rental Gamer, co-captain of the Tippinators Paintball Team and is currently battling with his lack of style. You can follow him online at Twitter.

[When I think style, I instantly think about my friend Suzanne. She’s new to the blogging world but those who follow the dog blog may remember her guest post “Tales of a Dog-Sitter.” Well, now she’s caught the blogging bug and has started up her own site called Just A Little Rouge. Here she is sharing some of the best kept secrets in Halifax’s fashion and furnishings world.]

By Suzanne Hickey

I am a proud Maritimer. Born in New Brunswick, lived in both PEI and NS as well, so there is no getting around it. But I moved away, fleeing to see what the rest of the country had to offer. And I loved almost every minute of it, but I always knew I’d move back here at some point. After all, it just feels like home to me. So, about 6 years ago I made Halifax home once again (I had lived here briefly before). So, yes, I am from the Maritimes, but I am also an East Coaster-er by choice.

I love this city. Do I think it has the potential to be a much, much better city? Hells ya. But that’s another blog altogether…

For now, let’s talk about style. I could get on my soap box about that one too. I believe one the sacrifices of living in a small city is that, well, it’s small. So, there isn’t the same kind of access to fabulous boutiques, high style furniture or accessories as any number of large cities. True. But, it still makes it’s way here, Halifax.

Let me introduce you to my little evolving neighbourhood. I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of re-gentrification and all those very real issues here (cue: soapbox). Let’s just say I bought a lovely home on my favorite street in Central Halifax. And one of my favorite strolls is along Agricola Street. Have you been lately?? You might be surprised what you’ll find. Grab and coffee and walk with me…

2797 Agricola Street

Our first stop on Agricola Street

Starting at the corner of Almond and Agricola, check out Finer Things & Curios (2797 Agricola Street). Quickly becoming one of my favorite places, I find myself stopping here often. And am always thrilled with my purchases – a vintage ’70s lamp, and antique locket, and beautiful sterling silver & moonstone antique ring. There is so much to look at here, be prepared to spend some quiet time letting your imagination run wild.

Traveling south, the next stop is Bellissimo! (2743 Agricola Street). Located in an old brick building, they have huge curb appeal. It’s very hard to walk by. Their slogan? “Decorative finds for beautiful living.” They deliver the goods.

Now, steady yourself and carefully run across the street to Army Navy Store (2660 Agricola St). This is a look at the grittier side. Their ad in the phone book says “New & used clothing and footwear. Hunting and Fishing supplies.” Huh? One look at the building and the always-interesting window display will give you an idea of what you are in for. You will be stared at with the slightly intimidating “you are not a regular, who are you and what are you doing here” look as you enter. Don’t let that stop you. Besides, this is the Maritimes, and relatively speaking, we are a pretty friendly bunch at heart. A little secret about this place is that they buy furniture from a couple of the local big hotels. Dig around…there are some really great deals to be had (and some strange things to see), if you’re looking for a furniture make-over project.

Next up is Norman Flynn Design (2698 Agricola Street). We’re not going to stop in today, but soak in the incredible lighting fixtures as we amble by. Also make note that here’s where to go to get Pratt & Lambert paint (can you say one coat, please?) and lots of great advice on your painting project. These guys have been featured all over the place, including in Enroute Magazine. They know their stuff.

Gus' Pub

Sound advice...

Time for a little break? All this discovery making you hungry? Here we have two great choices. Stay chic and pop into Fred – salon, gallery and café (2606 Agricola Street). While you are here, you may have to remind yourself that yes indeed, you are still in Halifax. Central Halifax, in fact. Option two is to dash back across the street and venture into Gus’ Pub (2605 Agricola St.) for a taste of the old-school neighbourhood. I can’t even fathom what they were thinking with the new paint job, but am trying to get past it.

Moving on to Statement (2534 Agricola Street) and immerse yourself in the upscale, trendy options available here. Ah…perhaps I could just move in for a while??

With a sigh, we are almost at the end of our stroll. But no shopping trip, window or otherwise, would be complete without a few clothing stores thrown in. Check out Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch (2383 Agricola St.). You will find lots of wonderful vintage clothes here and more than likely visit the change room. You may even get to meet the resident hound dogs, if you are lucky.

Pretty Things Boutique

This shop really lives up to it's name

Finally, take a left off Agricola St. onto Cunard, past the new condo building quickly taking shape, and stop into Pretty Things Boutique (5685 Cunard Street). Retro & rockabilly inspired fashions – fabulously feminine fashions inspired by the 1950’s and 1960’s. I bought my most favorite fancy dress here that I call “1950’s housewife does new year’s eve” and I’ve never felt so great or had so many compliments.

If you know me in real life, we’d pop around the corner to my place to have tea (or a glass of red) to review the fantastic finds of the day. Either way, you would have noticed that on our stroll we went by many other interesting places…cafes, bakeries, a local source market, art spaces and so much more nestled in between new and old.

I’m sure you’ll be back. And I look forward to seeing you one of these days in my ‘hood.

Suzanne is public relations/communications gal by trade who just opened a small staging & design company in Halifax. For more, check out Little Red.

[When I put out a call for guest blog submissions, my goal was to get a variety of East Coast perspectives on the topic of fashion & style. This next post certainly delivers a unique view on the subject. Please give a warm welcome to one of my fave local Twitterati, a man who will un-friend you on Facebook faster than you can click “send request.”]

By Joel Kelly

*Disclaimer: The advice you’re about to read was written by a man who went through a phase (he was a child at the time) of dressing like Ace Ventura, and was convinced (again, as a young child) that by dressing in black sweatpants and black sweaters he looked like Batman and would one day become him.*

The longest I’ve ever been able to force myself to abide by a dress code was about two months. I wore dress pants/khakis, and a button-up shirt. And dress shoes. You know, “business casual.” Which, of course, means, “clothes that make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious all day.”

The degradation started with simply switching to jeans, but tucking in the shirt. You know, balancing it all out.

Then the shirt came untucked.

Then the dress shoes became sneakers.

Other employees observed the slow and calculated descent into comfort. But more importantly they observed management’s complete disregard for my outright disobedience. It was as if the dress code never mattered in the first place. Never actually affected productivity. It was as if it had been instituted because someone suggested there should be more rules and why not make it about clothing?

So for my “902 Style Files” post, I’d like to talk to you about dressing for work in an office environment where everyone else dresses nicely, and like grownups.

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

1) Footwear. This is the most important bit in any outfit. They say that it’s the first thing women notice when looking at a man. They also say that women look at men, but I’ve had no firsthand knowledge of this so I’m utterly unconvinced. Anyway, the point is wear very, very comfortable footwear. You have to wear them all day, after all! So get yourself some OdorEaters insoles and toss on your rattiest sneakers. You’ll feel confident and comfortable all day. And if I ever got close enough to women to find out for sure (I get nervous and run the other way, typically) I’m pretty sure my bright blue shoes that are falling apart will turn some heads! (Direction of turn to be determined)

2) Jeans. Notice I didn’t says “pants,” or “bottoms.” This is non-negotiable. If you’re not wearing jeans don’t whine about not being comfortable: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Jeans = comfort. Except if you accidentally buy jeans with a button-fly at the Gap because you’re terrified of clothes-shopping and store clerks and dressing rooms and taking your pants off. If that happens (I have this friend who says it can happen and that you shouldn’t judge him!) then you’re in trouble and you’ll only wear them when your other jeans are dirty or something, or you can’t find them because they’re lost in the pile of dirty clothes and sadness somewhere on the carpet of your bedroom floor. Where was this going?

3) Shirts. I recommend plaid button-up shirts. Mostly because they’re timelessly classy. But they’re also like ten bucks at Wal-Mart.

4) Hoodies. These are basically your go-to sweater when you’re preparing for a long day at the office where your coworkers are likely dressed in expensive, “fashionable” clothes. I recommend hoodies with cute visual flairs like dinosaurs or yetis. Ladies love animals. The great part about hoodies are their ease of removal when you work in an office where the temperature is apparently dictated by some sort of fire lizard attempting to acclimate all the employees to its native volcano-clime. Of course, if you’re going to remove your hoodie, check your pits! Wearing a hoodie all day when it’s super hot can only compound the issue of being sweaty and gross (a common problem for almost everyone, and not just me), so make sure you’re good before you take it off. If not, keep that sucker on! It’ll help you sweat out your Tuesday morning hangover, too.

Well, I hope that helped. My name is Joel, by the way, and I’d like to be your friend.

Joel Kelly bills himself as a vegan nerd and marketing asshole. He works for a Halifax-based advertising agency where everyone dresses up for work. His blog about internet marketing can be found at Ingenioustries and you should follow him on Twitter.

[Welcome to another edition of East Coast Guest Posts. This week while I’m eyeball deep in work, some local bloggers will be talking about what I’m calling The 902 Style Files. I have to admit that I love shoes. While I’m not one of those women whose collection could rival that of Imelda Marcus, I do have my share of fancy footwear. Here we have a woman who’s serious about shoes and we can all take a few lessons from her expertise. Did you just tune out because you’re a guy? Well, focus, mister because it’s imperative that you go to point #7).]

By Sarah Semark

porcelaingirlc2b0-josie-grossie

Photo credit: Porcelaingirl° {josie-grossie} from Flickr

There’s something about a pair of heels. They’re instantly classy. They work with everything, they make your legs look great, and they can turn the scrubbiest ensemble into a kick-ass outfit. A beautiful pair of shoes is a magical creature that will transform you into a sophisticated lady-about-town, even when you’re just running out to the grocery store in your pyjamas and bedhead.

But when you live in a climate that changes every hour, and the sidewalks are almost always covered in ice (or snow, or rain, or some combination thereof), wearing heels can be hazardous to your health. As a girl who never wears flats and rarely suffers for it, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.

1. Calculated risk.

Using the table below, add the activity (a) to the conditions (c), then multiply by the amount of alcoholic drinks consumed (b is for booze).
Risk = b(a+c)

Activities
Walking: 1pt per km
Dancing: 2pts per half-hour
Attending a wedding, party, or social event: 1pt per hour
Kung fu: 50pts

Conditions
Ice: 10pts
Snow: 2pts
Grassy lawn: 1pt
Areas with decks, grates, or lots of stairs: 5pts
Rocky mountainsides: 30pts

If your risk value is over 20, you can be forgiven for wearing flats. If it’s over 10, perhaps it’s best to go with a practical, heavy-heeled boot. If it’s under ten, a lady can handle it.

2. Avoid hazardous materials.

Suede boots are for cowboys. Have you ever seen it rain in a cowboy movie? In a town where it rains every other day, I can’t understand why anyone would brave wearing suede boots.

Satin can be tricky. Mud and salt will cling to it, but can usually be washed successfully. Stick to darker colours.

Leather is good so long as you protect it. Vinyl will often survive more trips through the salt.

Patent is ideal–you can wear white patent shoes all winter and they’ll always look pristine. Generally speaking, the shinier the shoe, the less likely it is to stain.

3. Length isn’t as important as width.

A kitten heel may seem easier to walk in, but often isn’t. Kitten heels also lack the awesome traits that longer heels offer: making your legs look great, giving you a sexy walk, looking gorgeous.

Instead, look for a heel that’s wider and blockier. You’ll have more stability, and won’t be prone to falling into the cracks of a deck or sinking into the grass.

4. Put your toes away.

Wearing stockings with open-toed shoes is utterly unforgivable. You may be able to get away with a colourful pair of knee socks under a solid black peep-toe pump, but I’ve never tried it.

Stash your open-toed shoes during the snowy season, or be prepared to have very, very cold toes.

5. Keep your ear to the ground.

Or rather, your eyes. Years of walking barefoot has taught me to instinctively watch my footing everywhere I go. This doesn’t mean staring at the ground all the time, it means keeping an eye on it to see what’s coming up.

Venturing onto an icy sidewalk in a stiletto is like wandering through a minefield, and requires absolute vigilance.

6. Always have something sticky on hand.

I once broke my heel falling down a set of stairs at a party, and had to walk home in my fishnets. It was November. A little shoe goo may have made it a much less painful trip.

Quick tip: if the whole heel’s come off, coat the spikes & the heel itself with glue, then slide together. If the heel’s snapped, glue the two pieces back together, then secure by wrapping with tape–try clear packing tape or black hockey tape. Chewing gum can work if you’re desperate.

7. A gentleman is your best accessory.

Any gentleman worth his salt should be more than ready to offer you his arm as you walk. It’s rather like walking with an extra leg: he’ll offer support, stability, and emergency rescues when you hit a patch of ice.

I had a gentleman on hand the night I broke my heel, and he was kind enough to give me a piggyback ride all the way home. Bring one with you whenever you can.

As a final note, if you find heels just too excruciatingly painful, invest in a well-made pair. (Naturalizer tends to be comfortable and often has more stylish varieties.) Peruse the orthopedic section of the drugstore: “heel huggers” prevent your heels from slipping or blistering, and ball-of-foot cushions reduce foot pain.

And never be too shy to kick ’em off to get down on the dance floor.

Sarah can often be found wandering about in impractical footwear. In the winter, she wears stilettos, and in the summer, she goes barefoot. She makes pretty things for a living and one day hopes to make enough money to afford a pair of Louboutins. You can find her work at Triggers & Sparks.

[Wrapping up the week of East Coast Guest Posts is Maria McGowan of The Right Coast. She’s lived on both coasts of Canada and offers this unique perspective on what makes this side the right one.]

By Maria McGowan

The Right Coast is Nova Scotia. “You must mean East Coast”, someone once said to me. That too but not exactly. Because I like to make lists, I’ll explain to you what I mean.

1. Geographically speaking, on the North American continent, there’s Canada. Nova Scotia is on the right hand side. You know, the eye naturally falls to the right.

2. I lived on the west coast for eleven years. My husband and I did what thousands of other new graduates do, we moved there to work. British Columbia was beautiful in many ways. Our children were born there, we made lifelong friends who made us part of the family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. My husband and I knew that there was something missing, even with a nice house and really good jobs, our lives were not complete. We realized that we wanted our children to not only see their grandparents and aunt and uncles every two years for a week or two at a time. It’s tough to form a relationship that way, yet alone maintain one. While it was a painful decision to uproot ourselves to move east, we made the plunge. And plunge we did. With no guarantee of a job in Nova Scotia, we quit our secure ones, sold our house and everything we owned. We made a right hand turn and kept going until be bumped our noses on the Atlantic.

3. This is home. I grew up in a small fishing community on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I was envious of those who could watch cable television, hang out at an arcade and do all those cool things that a teenager could do. While my city slicker friends were mastering Pacman, I was jigging mackerel from the wharf. While none of these things are not necessarily better than the other, they are different and years later I realize that cleaning a fish is a good skill to have. My childhood experiences were humble yet rich.

4. The people are “some” nice. On Twitter I asked the following question: What makes Nova Scotia the “right coast” for you to live? Basically all of the responses made reference to the people. Words like “authenticity”, “warm, kind and fun to be with” came up. Of course, people are nice wherever you go but it’s Nova Scotians who capture tourists’ hearts and uphold our reputation.

For these reasons, Nova Scotia truly is the right coast for me. What are yours?

Maria McGowan lays claim to having lived on both of Canada’s left and right coasts. A marketer and writer who loves the web and is intrigued by social media. Maria is passionate about tourism and especially Nova Scotia. Authors a personal interest blog The Right Coast.

[This next guest post comes from a local entrepreneur and surfing aficionado. Surfing in Nova Scotia, you might ask? Yeah, that was my first reaction, too. But there are plenty of people who get a kick out of riding the waves in the cold, cold Atlantic Ocean. Don’t believe me? Check out Scotia Surfer or SurfDonkey and see for yourself. Personally, I’d rather be by the beach bonfire, but to each their own, right?]

By Craig Moore

You can call me a hard-core East Coaster by any means. This doesn’t mean I drink tea and love cod but it does mean that I’m so bloody “pure laine” that I don’t even know it. My roots go back several generations on both sides for both my wife and I. We’ve grown up here, educated here, work here, choose to live and bring up our kids here. We’re part of the cult and don’t realize it. Or so it would seem.

I never quite realized what it was like to live and interact here until a dean from one of my universities mentioned off-hand how strange it was to work here. I asked what he meant and he said that when you sit with people from around here the conversation quickly goes to who you know, where “ya from” and who’s “yer fadder” (all said with a rural Cape Breton twang, of course).

peppergrasses from Flickr

Photo credit: peppergrasses from Flickr

Although people don’t speak with the twang (not too much at least), it is the flavour of the interaction. Much of how people operate around here is based on your connection to this place. It’s like a one-degree of separation where Kevin Bacon is replaced with the East Coast. I didn’t realize that I did it until I had heard that comment and now I see that I’m just as bad at it, or rather, just as natural at it.

Now, I don’t know if that makes people around here more honest and respectful of the relationship but it does keep in the forefront that this is a place not to pour gasoline on the bridge. Does it make things more insular?  Probably, but the great thing about here is that one-degree thread doesn’t take long to knit into your own East Coast tea cozy.

Craig Moore is married with three kids. Living in Dartmouth (the good side). Owner of Spider Video.  SMU and NSCAD grad. Creator of SurfDonkey, another East Coast feature BTW. Podcamp Halifax organizing team member. Believer that you can do anything you want from here.

[Wolfville is one of my favourite places to visit in the province. So, I have to admit it was really hard for me to read this post because I don’t need any convincing that it’s also a great place to live. If only I had a driver’s license…But I digress. If you haven’t been to Wolfville, you seriously need to drop what you’re doing and go there right now.]

By Chris Campbell

For some reason it was cloudy every day we went house hunting in Windsor. I accepted a job offer to work in the birthplace of hockey and had given my notice in Fredericton. We needed to find a place to live when we moved to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick in June of 2000. It wasn’t an easy decision as I’d grown up in Fredericton, went to school, worked and learned to make films with my friends at the NB Filmmakers’ Co-operative.

Lured by the challenges of a new media startup in rural Nova Scotia, the decision was made to move me, my partner Carolyn and our three children to a relatively unknown future in the Annapolis Valley. Searching for a house (our first house) is a challenge, but doing so remotely is even harder. We found a real estate agent and began our quest. Two days were set aside to find a place and on the first day it wasn’t going well as everything seemed either too small or too run down and we didn’t see the sun at all. For the second day our agent suggested we expand the search to include more of the surround areas such as Wolfville and Kentville.

Chris Campbell from Flickr

Photo credit: Chris Campbell from Flickr

On day two we drove down the highway from our motel in Windsor to Wolfville. The sun broke through the clouds as we came over the hill before the Gaspereau River. We saw Blomidon and the Minas Basin spread out before us and we said “wow” and knew that this was going to be the place. We liked most of the houses we saw and found one that fit within our budget and much paperwork and administrative costs later, we owned it.

We were happy with the house and being relatively close to where we were going to be working and to live in such a beautiful place. The kids could walk to school and the neighbourhood was quiet and peaceful. But we didn’t really know much about Wolfville, so we began to explore our new home. The first pleasant surprise was the Just Us! Coffee roasters in Grand Pré. I had been enjoying the coffee for a while and now lived just down the road and would smell the roasting coffee on the way to work.

Things got even better when Just Us! opened a café downtown in Wolfville in the Acadia Theatre building, which had closed just before we arrived. The café was part of a co-operative established to restore the theatre and after a few years the Fundy Film Society was screening great films that I wanted to see in the Al Whittle Theatre (in recognition of Al, who ran the theatre for almost half a century). To supplement the big screen films is the video rental store Light & Shadow, which has an eclectic collection of films to rival any large rental chain.

There are great restaurants and Paddy’s Pub, where they brew delicious beer and often feature talented local musicians from the surrounding area in the evenings. The town is filled with music and art from the bars and restaurants to the theatre to the Saturday morning farmers’ market with live music accompanying the diverse food and crafts for sale.

Wolfville is a progressive town with a wonderful lack of fast food chains and a commitment to environmental responsibility with anti-smoking and anti-idling (for cars) initiatives. As you walk around the town and through the walking trails you’ll be greeted with smiles as it’s a very friendly place. Even though I work in Dartmouth and need to commute during the school year, I love the balance that Wolfville has struck between work and life with nature and essential things such as good food and drink, good films, and a strong sense of community. Wolfville is a wonderful town that I’m proud to choose as my home.

Chris is a long-time media creator with a keen interest in combining storytelling with new technologies in film, video, audio and the web. During the day he teaches Screen Arts at the Nova Scotia Community College in Halifax with an emphasis on producing and post production. He’s also taught workshops in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. In the past he’s edited a feature-length documentary film about the end of segregation in Bermuda, shot video, recorded sound, hosted radio and TV shows, made web sites, and served on several arts boards and juries, including the NB Filmmakers’ Co-operative. In his spare time at home in Wolfville Chris writes on the web at bitdepth.org, shares photos on Flickr, and microblogs on Twitter.

[Maybe I’m sleeping off Cote du Rhone wine and a belly full of gastronomic wonders here in the lovely south of France, or maybe I’m touring around the ruins of the former Roman Empire. Je ne sais pas. One of my favourite bloggers in the beautiful city of Halifax generously offered to post here while I’m away. So, without further ado, here’s Jenn Belle:]

Although I’m not originally from around here, Halifax has been where I’ve lived the longest. I was born in Germany and spent my first three years there, but I have very little recollection of the place aside from my morning cartoons being transmitted during dinnertime and my kindermädchen, who didn’t speak much English.  After that, I spent a decade in Bagotville, Quebec. I still think of it as a magical place that was perfect for childhood exploration and imagination. I spent my formative years getting dirty by trekking in the coulee, making forts in the woods of our backyards, and going down steep slopes that could put Citadel Hill to shame at breakneck speeds on our three-skis in the wintertime.

My dad was in the military, and as good as he was, there were only so many promotions he could take before he was so high up in the ranks he had to be posted somewhere else. I thought our move to Nova Scotia was the cruelest thing ever done to me, and I spent a lot of time and energy fighting the transition into my new home. When I finally accepted that this would be the place where I’d spend the next chapter of my life, I started to really like it here. It’s more than just a place full of lively, friendly people and delicious, fresh seafood. It’s my home, where my friends and family are, and the place that will always have a part of my heart.

Here’s what I’ve come to love about living here in the East Coast:

1. No one is out to get me. It took me two years to finally come to grips that people walking toward me on the sidewalk with a smile and a “Hello” are not stalkers secretly ready to stab me in the back. They are just a polite strangers saying hi. Compared to Quebec, East Coasters are pleasant people. You wouldn’t catch me dead smiling and speaking to a stranger on a Quebec sidewalk! (Or, rather, maybe you would…)

2. I can turn right on red lights. Given, I don’t drive, so it makes no difference to me, but many people have assured me how great this option is.

KennethMoyle from Flickr

Photo credit: KennethMoyle from Flickr

3. I can BBQ 10 out of the 12 months of the year because the winter weather is mild. I remember when I used to have a house with a yard and a barbecue, we would be grilling up some steaks a week before Christmas. Santa and his reindeer loved ‘cued chicken breasts!

4. If I wanted to, I could take a dip in the ocean. That said, I typically choose not to take a dip in the ocean, because most of the year the water is usually a good ten degrees below “losing your toes” temperature, but I like knowing that I have the option.

5. Part of the East Coast, Halifax in particular, is home to the best, most delicious gastrointestinal delicacy that you will surely regret eating but won’t be able to stop yourself from consuming again in the future: the donair. If my body could handle it, I’d eat donairs daily. There’s just something about spitted meat and sweet garlic sauce wrapped on a warm pita that just hits the spot (and then beats your stomach into submission).

Jenn Belle has been everyone’s hero since 1985. She’s a nerd girl obsessed with television, reading, sequential art, and sometimes film. Chocaholic neat freak with OCD is also another way to describe her. She has a wonderful, supportive group of friends, a lovely family, and a cat that thinks she’s her baby. She’s a Halifax girl blogging all about her ordinary world, even if it’s to no one in particular. You can get to know this nerd over at her blog, La Belle Ecrivaine.

[By now I’m somewhere in the south of France, far removed from thoughts of snow. The only kind of precipitation here will be of the good old-fashioned vertically descending rain type. For the rest of you left on the East Coast, here’s a treat from a Halifax-based blogger on the art and tribulations of shoveling.]

By Giles Crouch

In early November I head down to the basement for the annual check of the weapons cache, to see that all is in order for the coming battles – plow shovel, salt spreader, angled shovel, check and check! This year I vow, yet again, that I will tackle this war with great aplomb as an artiste tackles a masterpiece. Preparation, I argue without much conviction, is half the battle; or perhaps it’s denial. This is the preparation for the inevitable snow storms that will mercilessly pound our coast as we hang precariously out into the most storm-ridden, vitriolic ocean in the world – the Atlantic.

bruceley from Flickr

Photo credit: bruceley from Flickr

The first snow falls. A good 20 centimeters and the next morning I awake early, quickly tilting back a hot cup of tea before donning my battle gear; gloves, hat, big boots, thick winter coat. Before I went to sleep the night before, the battle plan was already engaged in my mind. The shovel selected, method of approach and tactics.

I think we all begin the snow-shoveling season this way out here. Determined that all walkways will be barren of snow and the driveway will be immaculate and guarded against ice with liberal doses of salt or sand. So it is, those first few storms. I shovel a little extra back from the walkway edge, giving room for more snow should it dare to storm again! The corners of the driveway at the roadside are pushed back for good exit and entrance room. I feel like a sculptor and gloat over my fine work. Two days later it is a rain-storm and the snow is all but gone. Then the next storm, but I am holding true to my convictions and plans. Even perhaps for the next.

Some say “snow” is a bad four-letter word after New Years. Some may be right. For it seems that by mid-January the convictions have been lost under a series of snow-drifts. News of another snow-storm is met with groans; of the heart and lower back. By now one is stockpiling Ibuprofen and a heating pad has been acquired. The sidewalk gets enough attention to avoid a law suit from the postal carrier and the driveway has a slim patch of reasonable walking width. The rains hold off just long enough now that one still must shovel. I dream that if the snow were regular enough I’d be as buff as Arnold, but as those of us who live in Nova Scotia know, the warming and cooling does better for head colds than abs of steel. So the inevitable battles goes, the best-laid plans are put to waste through storm attrition, the Atlantic grins wickedly in her victory yet again and Jack Frost giggles in the snowbank. Next year I’m buying a snow blower so it won’t snow.

Giles is an ex-pat Brit turned Canadian living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A serial entrepreneur and passionate marketer, he is partner in Social Media agency MediaBadger.

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