Commercial food photography for The Canadian Cottage

Canadians are recognised internationally as a friendly bunch so as I’ve got to know a local Wirral-based business called the Canadian Cottage, working together made a lot of sense. The Canadian Cottage aims to bring products popular in Canada to British tummies – and in my case Canadians tummies living in Britain!

Laura, who is the brains behind the business, asked me to shoot some pictures of her lovely goodies – without eating them first. Well, she didn’t actually say I couldn’t eat them but I cleverly realised that if I ate everything there would be nothing to shoot so I adopted the “no eating policy” as a basic code to abide by…

We started out with a few profile shots of Laura and then moved onto the goodies – starting with the maple cookies. I’ve ordered from the Canadian Cottage a couple of times and Laura asked me what my favourite is… Without even thinking I said the maple cookies.  These double layer custard cream-esk cookies with their maple buttercream centres take some beating in my mind.

Then there were the Nanaimo bars. When I make them they taste quite nice but are all a bit of a mess with ragged edges and crumbly bits – Laura’s were perfect to look at so after envying them (and then photographing them) we moved onto the peanut butter truffles.  And then the butter tarts, maple pecan tarts, chocolate chip cookies, ginger cookies, peanut butter cookies and the banana bread.  Is your mouth watering yet?  In the Canadian Cottage shop there are a couple of selection party packs you can buy so I took some photographs showing what these looked like as well.


We worked outside in the garden under the shade of an umbrella so the lighting was lovely and soft and the weather was fantastic. So there I am outside in the sun, enjoying being warm, photographing some of my favourite things to photograph while being able to discuss Canadian things to someone that understands.  We both agreed that this work stuff took some beating.

And to top it off, when we were done I left the shoot with a little care pack of cookies. Oh my goodness – the Peanut Butter cookies.  Are these my new favourites…?  I just ordered some.  And some of the ginger ones too.  I mean it would be wrong not to give this lovely company my business, right…?! 😉

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White Christmas

This year we took flight across the Atlantic to spend Christmas in the great white north with my family… It was great to spend this time with Mum, Dad and Janet – and it’s been a while (+8 years?) since I had a Christmas with them. Of course, we missed our “usual” Christmas with Jayne, Paul and the kids.

And this is the thing about living away from my original home… no matter where I am in the world, there will always be people I love who aren’t nearby. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that…

On the first day of the trip, we headed into Alliston for a spot of shopping- I needed a pair of winter boots for starters. As well as the boots, we picked up some other essentials and paid our first (of several) visits to Tim Hortons. Timbits for me – yes please! In the afternoon we had a trip (back in time for me) to the Hockley honey farm that we used to go to when I was a kid ( I came away with a jar of blueberry honey and a second jar of cinnamon honey. I was trying not to think about the weight of these jars in my suitcase!

The snow started to fall in the evening and the world was looking very wintery when we woke up the next morning. A perfect day to head down to a maple syrup farm ( to learn about the effort that is involved in making maple syrup. The best time to see the process is in early spring when everything starts to thaw out but we really enjoyed our visit there in what felt like the depths of winter and I think I can now explain properly why it’s such expensive stuff!  Another Canadian first for Paul in the evening when we headed into Alliston to check out the Alliston Hornets playing their last game before Christmas.  Unfortunately despite outshooting and generally outplaying Stayner, the Hornets lost the game but I was suitably entertained by their efforts.  Better luck next time!  Go Hornets, Go!

On Saturday there was another trip to Tim Horton’s to see Mum and Dad’s gang that they meet there each week. We had another look around the shops and then home to make first a snow man and then a pork pie on Saturday afternoon for dinner that evening. Janet arrived home on Saturday afternoon so we ate the pork pie and caught up with her before heading to see my Mum and Dad’s friends Pat and Ewart and their two very soft, very big, very friendly cats Sam and Sylvester of course. Pat is a wonderful host and spoiled us with baked goods and other nibbles. No visit to Pat and Ewart is complete with a look at a vehicle, tractor or similar and this one was no exception!

After making it to church on Sunday morning to see Mum on duty and the children’s Christmas pageant, I spent the rest of Christmas Eve on the couch… Mostly sleeping but generally just feeling sorry for myself. I had somehow managed to pick up a stomach bug and didn’t feel much like eating anything and I had a fever too. This was along with the cold I’d brought over from England with me. Merry Christmas to me! Christmas Day there were some presents to open in the morning and I just about managed the dinner that I had so been looking forward to at the Nottawasaga Inn ( I love Christmas dinner there – it is a very festive atmosphere and there is something for everyone at the buffet.

On Boxing Day we said goodbye to Mum, Dad and Janet and headed into Toronto to spend a couple of days in the city. Toronto has yet to be toppled from it’s spot as my favourite city in the world to visit. Our time in Toronto aligned nicely with the cold snap that fell on southern Ontario – -20C while we were in the city. We still got out and explored (it was particularly neat to the see the harbour frozen over) but we did make quite significant use of the underground path that connects the city. We had a really nice meal with Andrew and Katrina and their awesome kids at an Italian place right near our hotel on the second night.

But it was time to move on before we knew it. Another visit that went by way too fast and the usual regrets about not seeing everyone I would have liked to see and those people that I did see, not being able to spend the time with them that I would have liked to… But I’m so glad we had these few days together and this time in the winter wonderland that was the mother country this trip!



Canada 2016

I was really happy to head home to Canada last week for a short trip with the sole purpose of visiting family and friends.  It just flew by – I managed to catch up with those that I did see but of course there were some people I just didn’t get a chance to see…  It’s always the way, unfortunately.

I made a bit of a list of the highlights of my trip which I’ve supplemented with a few pictures from when I was there.

Biggest surprise – the weather.  It was very warm and dry for the whole trip.  Amazing.

Best hospitality – Katrina and Andrew offering to host my friends for a BBQ at their house.

Warmest welcome – when Mia came running towards me shouting, “Auntie Val!” when she saw me when we went to pick her up from school.  Very cute.

Best reunion – the Chemistry girls all being together in one place at one time.  This is quite difficult generally with Nadine living in Halifax and Nada’s husband working for the police with a busy shift schedule.  But we did it this time.

Best walk – the loop around Earl Rowe Provincial Park.  Mum, Dad and I did it a few times while I was home in the evening after supper.

Best video – the one of Stella and the 70 tennis balls.  It was nice to be able to watch it again with Aunt June.

Best compliment – getting told I was like my Mum. 🙂

Freshest food – handpicked asparagus from Dad’s garden.  Tasted delicious.

Scardiest cat – George. It was really nice to finally meet him but I freaked him out a couple of times when he didn’t realise I was in the basement and went dashing up to get away from me.  I do like this picture I took of him though, and I especially like the picture Mum took me me taking it where it looks like I fell flat on my face!

Biggest annoyance –  Trying to find a restaurant to have brunch in with Janet when all the power was out at the one she’d booked!  We did find somewhere very nice eventually so I guess it was worth the effort.


Best Canadian treat – a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  Oreo of course.

Most “Canadian” foodstuff – Moose tacos made by Andre which I had when we went to visit Lauren and Andre on the last night of my visit.

Nicest lunch – This is a tough one.  I had a grilled rueben which was something I hadn’t had for a long time with Jennifer, Mum and Dad at the Pickle Barrel in Toronto.  I also enjoyed my sandwich and butter tart at the church’s Retreat House with Mum, Anne and Pat as well as the middle easter tapas with Joscelyn, Lauren and Andre.  And then there was the poutine at the mall in Newmarket as well as some timbits at Tim Hortons in Alliston!

Best deal – Boot No7 face cream.  A British product that Shoppers Drug Mart sells at a much cheaper price than I can buy it here.  Explain that.

Best public transport – the new train that goes from Union Station in Toronto to the airport.  Super clean, fast, easy and affordable too.

Heaviest thing – my suitcase!  I thought it was heavy going out at 27kg but it topped out at nearly 30kg coming home.  And that was after I off loaded a bunch of stuff.

Treat that I brought home for Paul which lasted the least amount of time – Timbits.  I got them at the airport.  Say no more.

When I got back to the UK, I was messaging with a friend in Canada who I hadn’t seen saying I’d been home but that I was back home now. Slightly confusing you might think! On reflection though I think I am really lucky to have two places that I can call home.

Until the next visit, I’ve got these memories to keep with me.  🙂


Canada Revisited

For my second trip to Canada in 2014, I am very happy to say I had a co-travelling companion (Paul).

So to summarise with some highs and lows:

  • Best reason to come home – Lauren and Andre’s wedding!
  • Most fun – Dancing at Lauren and Andre’s wedding.
  • Highlight – Seeing and spending time with friends and family.  Some of whom I hadn’t seen for a very long time.
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  • Biggest disappointment – Missing seeing all the people I wanted to see and only having limited time to see the people I did see.
  • Best sunset – Looking out from the beach of our resort over Manitowaning Bay, Manitoulin Island.
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  • Best view – From 10 Mile Point, Manitoulin on a misty morning.
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  • Best waterfall – Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong, Manitoulin.
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  • Best form of transport – The ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island.
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  • Favourite meal out – The all you can eat buffet at the Mandarin with friends.  Oh my.
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  • Best takeaway – Fish and chips from Judy’s chip van in Alliston.  No mushy peas but it still gets two thumbs up.
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  • Best taste of home – A Dairy Queen Blizzard.  That wins every time.
  • Best beer – Steam Whistle.  As judged by Paul – he is more qualified than me. 😉
  • Best walk – Wandering around the streets of Toronto exploring familiar places.
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  • Best colours – Just catching the leaves turning colours.  I had forgotten how spectacular that can be.  P1090136
  • Best new discovery – The native Canadian artist from Manitoulin Island Leland Bell.  I will have to save up my pennies to have one of his paintings….
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  • Biggest surprise – The weather.  Mid 20s and sunny at the end of September.  Yes please. 🙂P1090057-2
  • Best purchase – Hawberry Jelly from a shop in Kagawong, Manitoulin.  There was no one in the shop so I left the money on the counter with a note.  We later heard the shop was actually closed.  I promise you that the door was open!
  • Best score line – 14-4 for the Toronto Blue Jays at Paul’s first baseball game.P1080947-2
  • Best acting – Paul playing the role of the English tourist perfectly in order to get special access to the Hudson Bay Christmas decorations so we could get one while we were there and before they went on sale officially.
  • Biggest pain – mosquitos

Reverend Pamela Joy Alderson

Now that is a strange reality.  Well sort of strange but perfectly normal all at the same time.  

I have just got back from a whirlwind trip home to Canada to see my Mum ordained as a Deacon at their church in Alliston.  The trip started with a rather unusual drop off at the airport in Frank following the Capesthorne Hall camping trip (see below).  After a pretty seamless flight I was picked up at a balmy Toronto airport by Lauren.  It was great to see Lauren and Andre for an evening BBQ and to watch some Stanley Cup hockey.  I mistakenly left my camera downstairs when I went to bed and there were some unusual pictures on it when I got up in the morning…. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from those 2 crazies… 😉


The next morning I met Janet at Finch subway station and we headed up to Newmarket to meet Mum and Dad.  There was lots of pre-ordination preparation going on but we made some time to do some other stuff including skating, yoga, Dairy Queen, 2 walks at Earl Rowe and a bit of shopping and some planning for our slightly longer September visit.   I also ate some “Canadian” food including pickles, gammon, Swiss Chalet, pancakes and maple cookies.  Yum yum.  

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The ordination service was on Wednesday– we left the house at about 4:30pm for the rehearsal which was followed by the service at 7pm.  It is hard to detail everything about the experience – apparently a video of the full service will be online – but I will try to identify a couple of the highlights for me in no particular order:  

  • How smoothly the service went and in what a good light the church appeared as a result of the event. Becoming a Reverend is obviously a big deal for my Mum but it was also a big deal for the church as it was the first visit from the new Bishop from Toronto who doesn’t make these trips for any old service….
  • The support that Mum has from the church.  She is obviously very popular and well loved by lots of people.  And why not I say. 
  • How long everyone clapped when Mum was presented to them as a Deacon! 
  • How Mum seemed to take everything in her stride and appeared at ease under the unique set of circumstances.  
  • The fellowship of the church – it seemed more welcoming and unified than I recall it being when I was a kid…
  • Meeting some of the people I had heard about but hadn’t met yet – particularly the Bishop, the minister running the service and the administration staff at the church.  Everyone was really friendly.
  • When they were dressing Mum in her new red Deacon robe during the rehearsal.  It was a bit of a flurry of red and arms and messy hair.  Now that was funny.  Thankfully they figured it out for the proper service.  
  • Hearing my Mum’s friend Anne tell me stories about working together at the hospital which probably are not the type of story that should be repeated too loudly at one’s ordination…. 😉 
  • Dad’s face when Mum was thanking him for his support over the years during her speech at the reception…

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Despite the fact that it was a very short trip and seems like a bit of a dream now, I am very glad I went and I am looking forward to going back in September already especially to see the Reverend in her new capacity!