Ottawa to PEI

Longtime readers of the blog know that we’ve been obsessed with sea glass for many, many years. I was first introduced to the idea when we visited Bar Harbor, way back when we were a family of four. My bloggy friend Phantom Scribbler introduced me to collecting tiny pebble-sized bits of glass as we wandered along the sea shore.

By sheer chance, our next major family vacation in 2010 brought us to a beach near Lunenberg, Nova Scotia that was so rich in sea glass that we filled our pockets to overflowing each time the tide went out, and an addiction was born.

Four of the last five years, we’ve scoured the beaches of Prince Edward Island, and especially the coastline near Souris, picking bits of joy out of the sand. I’ve made sea glass jewellery, key chains, mobiles and even a sea glass lantern, and I’m sure we have more than five kilos of it stashed in various containers around the house. By some weird fluke, though, this is the year that we found our most unusual and precious pieces.

The first was this purple coil. Purple is a rare colour for sea glass, and this crazy curl is quite unusual. In fact, we couldn’t help but enter it into the “best shard” competition at the Mermaid’s Tears sea glass festival that happened to be taking place in Souris when we were there last month. It took honourable mention, and the judge said its only drawback was that it was a relatively young piece and didn’t have much pitting or other signs of aging. We wonder what it could have been?

sea glass

It wasn’t until we got home, though, that we realized the other treasure we’d found. Beloved was scanning through our haul with a black light flashlight and one piece glowed unmistakably: we’d found not one but TWO elusive pieces of radioactive sea glass, also known as UV glass, Vaseline glass or uranium glass, because it is in fact made with trace amounts of uranium. Yes, THAT uranium, the one they use to make nuclear bombs! It’s not overtly visible to the naked eye, and we had no idea these were a pieces destined for my ‘favourites’ jar until it glowed smartly and obviously when Beloved skimmed the black light over them.

Uranium glass, or UV glass

Apparently, uranium used to be a commonly used ingredient back in the day to add certain colours to glass tableware. In doing a little research, we found out that the flourescence of UV glass is totally unrelated its radioactivity, which is actually measurable with a Geiger counter. However, since only small amounts of uranium were used during the manufacture of the glass, the amount of radioactivity in uranium glass is not considered harmful.

Isn’t it amazing how it looks completely unremarkable under normal light (left photo), but glows neon bright under the black light? Note to self, bring black light flashlight to PEI next vacation!!

comparison between UV uranium glass and sea glass

From a long but fascinating delve into the science and art behind Vaseline glass: “Regardless of who did what first, we know that [uranium] itself was identified in 1789, when German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth named it after our solar system’s most recently discovered planet. Back then, uranium was seen as just one more mineral to color clear silicon dioxide, the main constituent in the sand glass is made from. Chemists like Klaproth knew that cadmium turned glass yellow, cobalt made it blue, manganese produced violet shades, and certain compounds of gold went red when heated, blown, and cooled.”

So now we’ve added to our collection a small fragment of red (one tiny fragment in boxes and boxes of sea glass!), a lovely frosty marble, a bit of milk glass, quite a bit of the more rare cobalt and purple glass, and now this fun discovery. Isn’t that the coolest thing? We just love wandering the seaside like magpies, looking for shiny bits, and treasures like these make the search that much more fun — and addictive!

Have you collected enough to have a favourite shard of sea glass or a fun story to tell about how you found some? And now for the really hard question: WHAT should I do with it???


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If you’re a long-time blog reader, you know that as a family, we have been stalking Chef Michael Smith for about four years now. We’ve long been fans of “the world’s tallest freestanding chef” and have been visiting his Flavour Shack in Souris every year that we visit Prince Edward Island. For my birthday in 2015, we even sprang for a night out with the family at his amazing FireWorks restaurant in the Inn at Bay Fortune – although the Chef was not in attendance that evening.

You might even remember that last winter, I got to meet Chef Michael when he was in Ottawa on business, and I managed to convince him to Face-Time with Beloved and the kids. I’m not kidding, we’re serious fans!

So when the stars aligned for our 2017 visit and we found out that Chef Michael’s annual charity event, the Village Feast, not only coincided with our visit for the first time ever, but would take place practically walking distance from our cottage, there was no way we could *not* go.

To our delight, right there as soon as we walked in was the man himself, offering oysters for sale to raise funds for the various charities that the Feast supports. And didn’t we just walk right up and say hello, as if we hadn’t been stalking the man for more than four years? I asked him if he remembered FaceTiming with the kids last year, and he was delighted (or so it seemed) to be meeting them face to face.

Here’s a memorable photo: that moment when your family meets your culinary boyfriend:

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

The Feast itself was amazing. We had salmon cakes and fresh greens, steak cooked to perfection, PEI potatoes mashed with gravy, a Kenyan curried bean dish called Githeri, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Especially considering it was food cooked for a thousand people, it was the best meal we had on PEI.

We were just finishing dessert when I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Loretta from Chef Michael’s Flavour Shack has taken our family portrait each year that we’ve visited PEI, by sheer coincidence of her being at work in the Flavour Shack every time we’ve visited. I walked over to say hello and asked if she remembered us, and not only did she remember us, but she was happy to take a “Village Feast” version of our annual PEI family portrait.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

On our way out, we stopped for a quick final chat with Chef Michael. I was amazed at how accessible he was – if this event were back in Ottawa, he’d be thronged with people trying to say hello or get a selfie. There was plenty of that going on – he signed my new Village Feast souvenir hat, which we needed in the blazing afternoon sun! – but it was a steady stream of folks instead of a big crowd. Most of the people just wanted to greet him as one greets a neighbour in the local grocery store, not an internationally recognized celebrity with his own TV shows. It was charming, and typical of the small-town vibe on PEI.

Lucas and I each tried oysters. Chef Michael carefully instructed Lucas on how to hold and eat the oyster, and I was just a little bit relieved when Lucas didn’t promptly spit it back out.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

Isn’t that awesome? He is as kind and magnetic in person as he is on TV – a perfectly Canadian celebrity. 🙂

A few days later, we saw via this local newspaper that the Feast had surpassed expectations, raising more than $100,000 for charity. It was one of many great moments from our trip to PEI this year.

Feast news


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Lighthouses are an iconic part of the PEI experience. In 2016, we even drove from one tip of the island to the other to earn our “tip to tip” lighthouse certificate! This trip, we visited no fewer than seven lighthouses in our adventures exploring PEI. They are as varied as they are beautiful, but after visiting the same places year after year, I felt like I should shake things up a bit with my photos.

There’s the “lighthouse peeking over the dunes” shot for some classic PEI flavour. This is Covehead Lighthouse, in PEI national park.

Covehead Lighthouse PEI

There’s the landlocked lighthouse. This is the New London Lighthouse, which we found while exploring near French River. I’ll have more photos from that adventure another day. We didn’t get too close, but it looks like the lighthouse keeper’s cottage is still attached to this one. How much fun would it be to live in a lighthouse? New London, by the way, is the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery. One can imagine that the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables stories gazed often upon this lighthouse!

Cape Tryon Lighthouse PEI

And speaking of iconic (did you say “cliche”?) shots, you can’t go wrong with some lobster traps in the foreground and a lighthouse in the background. This is the Souris lighthouse, and if you like seaglass, you simply must visit the wonderful seaglass exhibit inside the lighthouse.

Souris Lighthouse and lobster traps

This year, we paid our first visit to PEI’s oldest lighthouse at Point Prim. I thought a black and white treatment worked, and really like the addition of the silhouetted person walking into the lighthouse.

Point Prim Lighthouse, PEI

By the time we got to the last day of our trip, I had taken a LOT of pictures, of the boys and of lighthouses and of the boys with lighthouses. We started to get a little silly. I noticed that Lucas was just about the right size to make this forced perspective shot work.

Lucas and the Souris Lighthouse

About two seconds later, Tristan nearly gave me a heart attack by leaping from one boulder to another nearby, and a new idea was born. With a little bit of planning, a big leap and lot of luck, this shot worked out just about perfectly.

Tristan leaping over Souris Lighthouse

Lighthouses are awesome! Do you have a favourite? Which of these shots do you like best?


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We’ve just returned from our annual vacation in Prince Edward Island, and I have a *cough* few photos to share.

This might be my new favourite photo of the boys, taken in Souris.

Boys in Souris

I might have thought, years ago, that vacationing with teenagers would have been a very different experience. We’ve just spent the most part of 10 days together in close quarters, though, and it was great. The boys tolerate our ideas of “adventures” (“let’s drive across the island so I can take a picture from a scenic lookout!”) as long as they’re liberally paired with stops for ice cream and the occasional used book store or comic book shop. And when we’re “home” in the cottage, they have liberal device and screen time – it’s their vacation too, after all.

Stay tuned and I’ll share some of our favourite PEI adventures from this year over the next couple of weeks.


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Back in 2014 when we visited PEI for the first time, one of our favourite stops was Chef Michael Smith’s Flavour Shack on Souris Beach. We met a passel of lovely women who all seemed to work for Chef Michael in some form or another, and one of them was a photographer named Loretta. She was kind enough to use my camera to take a family portrait of us at the Flavour Shack – and it was also them who encouraged us to visit Basin Head for the first time.

In 2015, of COURSE we stopped by the Flavour Shack again, and we happened to find our friend Loretta there and willing to take an updated family portrait for us. The only small disappointment was that in a few visits, we never managed to see Chef Michael himself.

This year, our cottage was just outside of Souris, so we passed by the Flavour Shack each time we set off on an adventure elsewhere on the Island, and each time we drove past, we craned our necks to see if anyone standing six inches taller than the rest of the crowd happened to be in the Flavour Shack. (The “world’s tallest freestanding chef” is rather easy to pick out of a crowd!) Alas, no luck. But we did, on the very last day of our PEI adventure, stop by for a visit to the Flavour Shack. And to our delight, Miss Loretta was there! And to our dismay, she told us that we had JUST MISSED Chef Michael, who had been in the Flavour Shack that very morning with his family.

We did, however, manage to caputre this terrific treasure: our third annual PEI Flavour Shack family portrait!

Flavour Shack family portrait 2016

It’s fun to see the changes. Here’s 2015:

Family portrait

And 2014:

Flavour Shack family portrait previous

I guess we’ll just have to keep going back to PEI to get our family photos updated every year!


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Only time for a quick photo today. This is from Basin Head – of course.

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”  ~ Terry Pratchett

I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full of Sky, a wonderful Terry Pratchett novel featuring the debut of the Nac Mac Feegles. You should read it! And, you should dance joyfully in the sea, whenever you can.


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Rediscovering Basin Head

20 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Basin Head beach was our first favourite place on Prince Edward Island. Clearly, lots of other people agree with us: Basin Head was recently named by Chatelaine as one of Canada’s Best Beaches. One of the main reasons I chose our current cottage is because it’s perfectly situated on the same coastal area as Basin […]

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Tip to tip: To the other side of PEI and back

19 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Did you know that if you visit both the East Point lighthouse and the North Cape lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, you earn a “tip to tip” certificate? I wasn’t entirely sure that a certificate alone would be enough to induce the boys into agreeing to the 2.5 hour drive across the province, but I […]

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A perfectly unambitious day in PEI

17 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

I have a spreadsheet of things we can do while we’re on PEI, with events and ideas and links that I’ve collected over a couple of years of relentless PEI research. It’s a little bit hard to admit that I’m the sort of person who has a spreadsheet to plan her vacation, but then again, […]

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Photos of the day: Back to the Beach in Prince Edward Island

15 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

We’ve returned for our third annual trip to Prince Edward Island. This year, we’ve chosen a cottage with direct beach access and water views from almost every room in the cottage – quite an improvement from our cottage last year, where “water views” meant a postage-stamp-sized glimpse through some trees and a walk most of […]

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