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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Happy holidays!

This week I had a delightful Christmas dinner with my grandmother in her care home. All of her children and most of her grandchildren were present, which was lovely. Her husband was not, as he traveled to the Grey Havens about a year ago, but we were all thinking of him.

The centerpiece, brought out from grandma’s old house (where my parents now live), was this jolly church—straight from the 1970s—laid in sugar-cube bricks and pink icing mortar.

grandma-bremners-sugar-church

Grandma apparently followed a pattern in Good Housekeeping to make it, but the candle trees and carollers were her own additions. She also cut shiny wrapping paper to make “stained glass” windows. I’d also show you the door, and the back of the church, but… I forgot my camera that day and had to rely on my dad’s BlackBerry.

The sugar church is on its last legs, but we enjoyed it one last time.

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I am, at this very second, en route away from Halifax, NS, and let me tell you: I will really miss the old-timey houses in the older parts of the city. In my last post, I showed you the most adorable houses of my neighborhood—the dollhouses, if you will. In this post, I want you to check out some others. Specifically, the haunted ones.

As I said in my last post,

Halifax is a cool city, for one thing because it’s one of the oldest large cities in Canada (it was settled by the British in 1749 as a counter naval base to the French at Fort Louisbourg in Cape Bretonsource), which means there are a number of stately residences in the areas that surround downtown. Some of these stately residences have been well-kept, and others have suffered from the difficult Haligonian weather (“If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes!”). These turn-of-the-century houses appear to me either as dollhouses or haunted houses. And that is the subject of this post (and the last).

I don’t entirely believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the power of the imagination. Check out these houses, which could easily be haunted:

A turret!

It looks pretty, you say? Think again. It's a weird part-castle. *shudders*

This one has tree cover, a stone wall, a curved horse-carriage-y driveway, and…

…a widow's peak!

Solitude.

And with that, I bid you adieu, Halifax.

It has been a slice. Truly.

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I’ll be leaving Halifax, NS in a few days, and let me tell you this: I will really miss the old-timey houses in the older parts of the city. In my last post, I showed you a few funny things in my neighborhood.

Halifax is a cool city, for one thing because it’s one of the oldest large cities in Canada (it was settled by the British in 1749 as a counter naval base to the French at Fort Louisbourg in Cape Bretonsource), which means there are a number of stately residences in the areas that surround downtown. Some of these stately residences have been well-kept, and others have suffered from the difficult Haligonian weather (“If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes!”). These houses appear to me either as dollhouses or haunted houses.

Today we’ll have a look at just a few of the jolly houses in my neighborhood—any of which I would be happy to see in miniature form.

Enjoy!

A pink door!

How adorable is this house! It looks tiny, but…

…this is the side view! It's an addition upon an addition! With garden-y accessories!

I was going to put captions under all of them, but I trust your sensibilities.

The purple house! And it has a white cat on it!

I just adore the combination of delightful, bright colors and turn-of-the-centure architecture.

I had so many photos! These are my favorites, but it was difficult to narrow it down. Do you have a favorite?

Hold tight for my next post, in which i plan to share photos of (what I imagine to be) haunted houses!

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I’m leaving Halifax, NS this weekend after living here for a year and a half. I’ve been saying farewell to my delightful neighborhood one shot at a time, and the time has come to share a few with you.

Here is a peacock on a big electrical box:

The Halifax Mystery Crafter (first seen in this post) has struck again!

Actually, he or she has been striking all summer—and it looks like they’ve had some success this season; the post is not as full of baubles as it once was.

Here is a weird apartment that is being built in what apparently used to be a junky warehouse. I hope they keep the crossbars and make it into some kind of unique, barred-off balcony:

Husband and I have also been monitoring the progress of another major reno project in the neighborhood: a house-raising! For serious, these people are lifting up their house and putting in a ground-floor suite. Wouldn’t it be much cheaper to add to the top of the house? Apparently not (we asked the construction guys); the foundations in these old houses need repair anyway, and the roofs are fine, so it’s actually cheaper to lift the whole thing up. Crazy!

I’ll end with a shot of a window I passed by. There appear to be some zany NSCAD students living there, so that’s cool:

Look forward to my next two posts, which will mostly be photographs of some lovely (and eerie) houses in my neighborhood: Halifax real-life dollhouses and (what appear to me as) haunted houses!

Try looking at your own neighborhood through the eyes of an artist, and see what you find!

“YOU WILL LOVE EACH OTHER”.

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I recently got myself hitched, as you may know, and in a number of ways our wedding was… unorthodox. One of these ways was our cake. We didn’t have a tiered wedding cake as per Western tradition. I didn’t feel attached to having a cake at all—I like to get my chocolate doses from more concentrated sources—but my shiny new husband loves crumb cake, so his dedicated mother baked ten of them. Our wedding guests chowed down on huge slices of it (with berries and cream) as they played board games and listened to a cello choir.

The visual component of our wedding cake, though, was an architectural masterpiece made from gingerbread, which we called The Gingerbread Fortress of Well-Being. We are Baha’is, as you also may know, and there’s a quotation from the Baha’i Writings that describes marriage as “a fortress for well-being” (more on that here); how encouraging is that! Robin and I wanted to share the analogy with our wedding guests somehow, and what better way to internalize a concept than by literally consuming it?

So now, documented for you here, is the construction adventure of our gingerbread fortress.

The Construction Process

Heather, my sister-in-law, revels in her architectural duties.

The whole project took about six people and four hours (not including the time it took for the icing to harden—and not including the people and ingenuity it took to maneuver the thing into a car and bring it to the wedding location). We began by inventorying the pieces and coming up with a basic design: a hexagon-shaped building with a dome on top.

I originally wanted to bake a huge batch of vegan gingerbread and cement icing, but time didn’t allow it. Luckily, the stores were still carrying marked-down Christmas supplies, so I bought three gingerbread house kits (for CHE

AP!). We used most of the included pieces (about 30, including structural pieces as well as decorative pieces, like trees), and we cut a few of them to suit our design. We also baked a few custom pieces (notably the large, flat roof) with a gingerbread dough mix. I felt a bit like a cheater using the kits and the mix, but the creativity it took to design and decorate the fortress made up for that in the end.

The Gingerbread Fortress was my brainchild, but the chief architect was my new sister-in-law, Heather. Our building team included Robin (my now-husband), my sisters Lydia and Veronica, and my BFF Samuel.

Robin, Heather, Veronica and Samuel begin to build!

All hands on deck!

Even my mother helped; we covered a painting of hers in aluminum foil to act as the base. Don’t worry; we didn’t ruin the painting, and it was still just a draft—we just needed the tough masonite!

Structural integrity was important because we wanted to make this thing BIG, and if it was going to be big it would have to hold itself up well. We used a multitude of gingerbread buttresses, inside and out, as well as two cardboard paper-towel rolls (one to hold up our custom-baked roof and another to hold up the drawbridge). Also we used a lot of cement icing.

Here's a clear view of the custom-baked roof. It was the right size and shape, but it sagged, so we cut the same shape from three cereal boxes and rested these underneath the dough like a plate.

We had to find something to hold up the roof from the inside so that it didn't sag. I cut a paper towel roll to the right height, and it did the trick.

Inside, a number of buttresses helped to prop up the big walls. Also, SECRET MESSAGE!

Here's another clear view from the top, before the roof and the dome were put on.

Here's a closer view of one of the buttresses and the moat.

The Decoration Process

As you can see, building and decorating happened simultaneously.

Dinosaurs manned the fortress and were heavily featured. Our formal wedding photos were taken in a natural history museum, so dinosaurs became a bit of a theme (we originally wanted to hold our ceremony there, but that’s another story…).

Hadrosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex come up the drawbridge.

Diplodocus guards one of the barracks tents.

Stegasaurus paces on the ledge of the ramparts.

Pteradactyl guards (or possibly steals?) eggs in a nest.

A difficult-to-identify dinosaur lounges in the moat with a beach ball.

Parasauralophus peeks out from an attic arch.

Aren’t you totally impressed by my dinosaur knowledge?

There were also gummy dinosaurs decorating the walls:

Heather made a number of lovely stained glass windows.

Take a look behind the bushes, through the barracks tent at General Diplodocus, then up toward the stained glass window, then to the left where stands… an all-powerful human being!

Also note the not-so-secret ingredient: creativity!

You thought I was going to say love, didn’t you.

The back of the fortress was covered in hearts. Aww!

Cake Toppers were not a priority in the overall wedding cake plan, but everything miraculously came together in the end. I found giant chocolate letters at the drug store one day (amazing, right?), and I made two gingerbread men versions of myself and Robin, one for each side of the fortress. My first name, last name, and gingerbread likeness are all in purple (traditionally my favorite colour), and Robin’s are in green (his fave). Special features of these gingerbread people include a mustache and beard carved from gumdrops and a specially mixed brown icing for hair colour.

From the front, you can see we two gingerbread people.

Gingerbread Chloë sits atop her side of the fortress.

Gingerbread Robin surveys the kingdom from his side.

Samuel may look like a slacker in the photos (he’s the guy talking on the phone), but he is responsible for the final touch of genius: the fact that our last names (Filson and Wilson) begin with the same letters as “Fortress of Well-Being”. Thus we were able to use the chocolate “F” and “W” in an awesome pseudo-acrostic title!

Filson & Wilson: A Fortress for Well-Being

The real final touch, though, was our awesome flag. We had a rubber stamp made and used it on favor bags, place cards, guest book, etc. Note our rhyming names, our wedding’s slogan (a different take on the slogan we used in our announcement poster), and the inclusion of both the Gregorian and Baha’i date.

Raise the Standard!

Appreciation and Consumption

Samuel is clearly into it.

Dad digs it!

At our wedding reception, the Gingerbread Fortress of Well-Being was lovingly attacked by our friend, Inflatable T-Rex (who, despite his claws, used a knife), and then enjoyed by our guests as they danced the night away. Here is our final moment with it:

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