How a Smurf Saved My Day

I was on the way home from a busy day running errands, attending a long meeting at City Hall, and grabbing a quick bite for dinner. And I could feel the bubbling up of dread.

Oh God, I haven’t written a blog post yet!

You see, I’m in the middle of my very first #NaBloPoMo ever – shorthand for Write a Blog Post a Day for a Month. It’s been hard. I’ve missed a day or two because I’ve been on photo shoots. And the guilt is growing.

What will I do??

I’m tempted to just throw in the towel and admit it’s too damn hard, that I’m just not cut out for this kind of dedication. But heck, I am so close to getting to 30 posts in 30 days. I want to prove I can do this!

And then I see him. Sitting in all his azure grandeur in the window of my local thrift store.

Photo by Cathy Browne

A big, blue Smurf. And the memories came flooding back.

I had a story to tell, after all.

Years ago, I’m guessing in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I had what was one of my most bizarre PR assignments. To help launch a new Smurf-inspired canned pasta, I had to escort a seven-foot high Papa Smurf figure to all of the morning radio shows in Toronto and drop off samples.

Let’s just say it was a memorable experience.

My model inside the giant Smurf was not happy. He couldn’t see that well out of the eyeholes because he was short. It was the height of summer and that suit was HOT. And I had to escort this giant form in and out of office buildings and up and down elevators and escalators for days on end.

And for some reason he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that his escort didn’t see much…!

Needless to say, this was one for the books. We’d be in a studio, dropping off the product, and he’d start to whimper because he was so miserable. And I’d have to nudge him and say “Quiet!” in a fierce whisper. And when we actually did an outdoor drop, with school kids milling around, I swear to God I heard soft sobs coming from that big blue body. It was, after all, around 80 degrees.

My God. What a riot.

Anyway, thanks, Big Stuffed Smurf, for giving me some inspiration, and a bit of a laugh.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the PR profession is all glamour!

Blind Tastings – New Zealand Oysters Meet BC Spirits

I love supporting independent businesses. So I was excited at the prospect of visiting Long Table Distillery, Vancouver’s first micro-distillery, for a sampling of 46 South Fish Co. New Zealand oysters and an assortment of Long Table spirits.

Long Table Distillery is Vancouver's first micro-distillery, focusing on sustainability and local ingredients.

Long Table Distillery is Vancouver’s first micro-distillery, focusing on sustainability and local ingredients.

NZ oysters married well with Long Table Distillery's locally-produced spirits.

New Zealand oysters married well with Long Table Distillery’s locally-produced spirits.

Mind you, my excitement was a wee bit tempered by the fact that I’m not used to eating oysters. It’s a texture thing for me. But I love the smell of the sea that wafts up from a platter of oysters. They’re such a beautiful, sensual food to photograph. I was bound and determined to have at least one. And I did!

I love shooting oysters, and inhaling the smell of the sea.

I love shooting oysters, and inhaling the smell of the sea. 46 South Fish Co. featured Kaipara (left) and Tio Point (right) varieties.

46 South Fish Co. have introduced Kaipara and Tio Point oysters to the Canadian market, and both were available for tasting to a very eager and hungry group of media and food writers. Kaipara oysters are the same genera as the Pacific Oysters and have a salty, creamy texture with hints of lemon and cucumber. They are grown in Kaipara Harbour in the northwest of the North Island where there is little human activity and exceptionally clean waters. Tio Points are more like the French Belons and have a shallower shell with plump, firm meat and a salty sweet flavour with hints of minerality and a slightly metallic finish. They are grown in the Marlborough area and are native to New Zealand; in fact Tio means oyster in the native Maori language.

The oysters disappeared faster than the shucker could shuck them!

The oysters disappeared faster than the shucker could shuck them!

I opted for the slightly smaller and more familiar Kaipara oyster and it was delicious! And it went down beautifully with Long Table Cucumber Gin. Suffice it to say that I was the only tentative person in the entire room – oyster after oyster was slurped with obvious pleasure and enjoyed with one of the many varieties of local spirits that were available for sipping with the oysters.

Among Long Table Distillery's popular offerings - Cucumber Gin, London Dry Gin, and Texada Vodka.

Among Long Table Distillery’s popular offerings – Cucumber Gin, London Dry Gin, and Texada Vodka.

This was a second milestone of the day for me. I haven’t been much of a spirits drinker, and wine is usually my beverage of choice. I’ve actually avoided gin in particular, mainly because of the smell. But I really liked the Cucumber Gin. Thanks to Charles of Long Table  for encouraging me!

Thanks to Charles at Long Table Distillery for encouraging me to try the Cucumber Gin!

Thanks to Charles at Long Table Distillery for encouraging me to try the Cucumber Gin!

If you’re an oyster lover, you can find the 46 South Fish Co. varieties at Codfathers Seafood in Kelowna, the Lobster Man on Granville Island, and in Toronto Diana’s Seafood Market. If you prefer a restaurant experience, Vancouver’s Oyster Express, Rodney’s in Toronto and Rodney’s Vancouver has them, and soon Rodney’s Calgary will have them on their menu. And if you don’t see them at your favourite fishmonger or oyster bar, ask for them! Mark Urwin from 46 South Fish Co. will be more than happy to oblige.

Of course, there was an #EyeOpener for me, not so much about accessibility of the location, but about my accessibility to new tastes and experiences. At the ripe old age of 60, I’m opening myself to more new bites and sips than I’ve ever had.

So, I’m up for new culinary adventures, folks. (And new selfie locations…)

Bring them on!

Long Table's still provided me with an interesting selfie.

Long Table’s still provided me with an interesting selfie.


An #EyeOpener for Us All – The First-Ever I AM Awards

Being disabled is challenging. Overcoming stereotypes based on ignorance and fear can make life even harder. It’s happened to me many times in my life.

But when it comes to developmentally disabled people, the obstacles are even more intimidating, because society’s expectations are very low.  Surely, these people can’t be productive, active members of their communities. They must be cared for in protected environments. They must be invisible.

Well, I had my eyes opened, big-time over the past few weeks. And I’m so happy and grateful that I did.

And it’s all due to my involvement with the Developmental Disabilities Association’s very first I AM Awards,

The I AM Awards were created to celebrate individuals who have made an inspiring contribution and have effected positive change in their communities. Those words don’t even begin to capture the energy, spirit and humanity of the people who were nominated for this award. I know. I was honoured to be one of the judges for this inaugural event, and got the unique opportunity to meet 30 amazing individuals through the nominations that were submitted. I was captivated and moved by their life stories – and humbled by their determination to live their lives fully. I had no idea how much they could accomplish – and I felt ashamed that I was surprised by this.

It was a long, hard process to choose just one recipient, but after a four-hour marathon, we did it!

Meet Dorothy Frew – the very first I AM Award winner. In her own words, she is a fighter, and a survivor. According to DDA’s blog, Dorothy is an advocate, widow, volunteer, and employee who receives support services from the Developmental Disabilities Association. Frew was nominated for her perseverance in overcoming obstacles in her efforts to live.

“Living with a life threatening disease, she demonstrates courage and optimism even when odds were against her. Through her fight to survive, Frew fought the healthcare system to receive the necessary care she deserved. As a result, she was able to receive dialysis and on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. Having been declared dead from a cardiac arrest, peers and patients at the hospital call Frew their role model for her wilful determination to live.”

Despite her physical ailments, Dorothy was excited and very happy to receive her award. I was fortunate to capture her joy and exuberance at the award presentation.




The tagline under the DDA logo says it all.

“Overcoming Obstacles, Encouraging Abilities.” Dorothy and all the nominees are proof that so much is possible.

I will never forget how much I took for granted until I was given the chance to discover how these awesome people live their lives.

A true #EyeOpener.

Finding Beauty – in My Back Yard

Sometimes, you don’t need to look far…

I’ve been shooting photos for my landlady so she has a collection of the flowers and trees she has on her property. No photo walking here – all the beauty I need to find is right outside my door! It’s an #EyeOpener we should all remember.







My Roving Eye – Windows, Doors, Wheels and Wanderlust in Paris


This gallery contains 20 photos.

I’m feeling very nostalgic today. Maybe because it’s spring, maybe because I’ve just discovered some photos I thought were lost – but my mind and heart are back in Paris, where I was two years ago…wandering. I’m not saying that … Continue reading