Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fifty Mission Cap

When I heard that Gord Downie had brain cancer my heart sunk. The Hip are the soundtrack to Canada. If you live in this great country, you can't help but know their tunes. The Hip are ubiquitous... their songs play frequently at school dances, small-town bars, and on the radio. Most Canadians have had many opportunities to see them, and I think many have - a handful of times! If you've seen Gord play, you know he's a wild man, contorting on the stage, spewing out nonsensical rants, dancing in the coolest way and making us all wish we could move like that. And his lyrics - jeez, pure poetry, and a lesson in Canadiana. So for someone like Gord to get cancer so young, it feels a bit unfair. Why him? Why his beautiful brain?

The good news for fans is that we got one last shot to see the Hip live. To say goodbye. To celebrate. And for me, I was lucky to attend with two of my best girlfriends, Alissa and Jacqui, both of whom I had seen the Hip with before. I was lucky to get seats, and good ones, directly from Ticketmaster. And the show, well, it did not disappoint. They played a 25-song setlist full of my fave tunes. 

My friend Jacqui had the best idea prior to the show. We would honour Gord by going shopping together before the concert and buying ourselves "50 Mission Caps." Our interpretation of 50 Mission Cap was similar to the concept of a friendship cap - we would buy some caps/hats, and then make a promise to go on 50 missions with each other throughout our lives and dedicate it to the Hip and Gord. 

So we made a "date night," and headed to Chapel Hats in West Edmonton Mall. We had the best time. We were served by two awesome dudes, Marco and Owen, who indulged our desire to try on every hat we could. We forced them to take pics, and we laughed our asses off at the ridiculousness of some of the hats. Here's a sample of the "caps" we tried:


Animal Instinct

Beauties in Black


Love the 90's cap on Jacqui :)


Here are our awesome helpers - Marco and Owen :)

Trying on hats was SO MUCH FUN! After all of that work, we had a hard decision to make - what to choose?

We felt this decision was best made over a drink on Bourbon Street:

After a few cocktails and a discussion of "cap strategy" we determined that our chosen caps must be practical. Many of our missions would likely involve the outdoors and travel, and so an all-purpose cap was needed.

We rushed back to Chapel with minutes to spare... and in the end, this is what we chose:

My mighty blue Bailey hat is awesome - it is made of felt, water-resistant, able to be crushed and packed... everything a girl could want in a Fifty Mission Cap.

When the night of the concert came, we proudly donned our caps and headed to the show:

Once there, the Hip put on an absolutely excellent show, and Gord was courageous and beautiful. It was a concert full of friendship, fifty mission caps, and memories to last a lifetime.

Love you Gord! 

Make sure to check out Secret Path, his new project to honour Chanie Wenjack and promote reconciliation. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

So Long, Leonard

We lost a Canadian legend yesterday. Leonard Cohen died at 82. I didn't find out right away. I was at an Edmonton Nature Club talk entitled, "From Pollination to Slavery: Symbiotic relationships in bees, wasps and ants." I started to get text messages and facebook notifications, with friends letting me know they loved me and were thinking of me. My admiration for Leonard is no secret. Leonard has long been my hero. I can remember when we had "USSR" in junior high - Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading. I read The Energy of Slaves and Beautiful Losers and fell completely in love with a fellow Canadian who had a penchant for tapping into my teenage angst and inspiring me to write my own poetry. I learned about Leonard from reading biographies on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I can remember singing along to Pennyroyal Tea:

Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally

I think all deep souls feel something when they listen to or read Cohen. His words are my bible, he is my Canadian God. I just "get" what he's saying. For me, the Energy of Slaves is ingrained in my formative mind... I see the world through Cohen eyes:

Love is a fire
It burns everyone
It disfigures everyone
It is the world's excuse
for being ugly

And I can't help but see the wisdom in his words. Here's an excerpt from "The Killers that Run the Other Countries": 

Frankly I don't believe
anyone out there
really wants us to solve
our social problems
I base this all on how I feel
about the man next door
I just hope he doesn't
get any uglier

At first, I only read Cohen. I didn't get into his music till I was older. But when I heard songs like Everybody Knows, Chelsea Hotel, The Future, I'm your Man, Closing Time, Hallelujah, Anthem, Famous Blue Raincoat... I was hooked. His skill at writing poetry translates perfectly into music - he is a lyrical genius, with stage presence to boot. That deep voice. That sly grin. The wry humour. 

I was lucky enough to see him play live twice. Once in Hamilton in 2009 and once in Edmonton in 2012. Both shows blew my mind. Here was an old man in his seventies, playing for HOURS. He was quite the showman, and definitely won my heart. I was a poor student in Toronto when I learned he was playing in Hamilton. I splurged, bought a ticket, and took a bus by myself to Hamilton. I could not miss the opportunity to see him. It was completely worth it and I swore I would see him again if the chance ever arose. Later, when he came to Edmonton, I pounced on tickets and paid whatever it took to get a seat in the front row. I again sat by myself, hanging on to every word... feeling the closest to holiness I had ever felt. 

It is sad this world will no longer have Leonard Cohen in it. But I knew his death would come, and he lived a long and mighty life. And the thing is, when you create such a bounty of amazing work, you truly do live on, forever. 

A couple years ago, I commissioned my friend Pearl, who is an amazing artist, to draw a "fantasy portrait" for me. I knew I would never meet Cohen, he would never be my lover (he's the only old man I'd want as one!), and I would have no special relationship with him. I am just one of many fans, who feel they somehow know him, as he has let us into his head and his heart. So - why not declare my love through fantasy art... 

I gave Pearl total artistic freedom. I told her I wanted a portrait of me and Lenny, but I did  not specify what picture I wanted, what our pose would be, or whether Leonard would be portrayed as old or young. She exceeded all of my expectations by drawing both a small pencil portrait, and then also creating a huge print that made us life-size, stately, and added color. I now have the small one hanging above my bed, and the other at the end of the long hallway in our apartment. The name Pearl gave the portrait is beautiful - Leonard at Peace. And now - he truly is.

 Thank you, Leonard, for making me the girl I am, and for demonstrating to me the beauty and power of words in my formative years. 

Million Dollar Quartet will Make you Miss the Tunes of the 50's!

I was very lucky to attend the AMAZING production of Million Dollar Quartet at the Citadel on Wednesday night. I thought it was going to be good, but it exceeded all expectations. It was exactly what I needed after all of the US election drama - pure entertainment and damn good music. And I'll tell ya - all of those actors could sing. So what's the premise of Million Dollar Quartet? According to the Director's Notes, the show has a simple premise: on December 4, 1956, before they were forever to become icons of American music, these "boys" - Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley - shared some time together, in Sam Phillips' soon to be iconic Sun Records studio. 

Can you imagine? All of that talent in one studio! It is truly amazing to hear hit after hit and realize the depth of the talent these "boys" had, and how skilled Sam Phillips was to be able to detect and hone that talent. And let's not forget, there was also a kick-ass performance by a "girl" too. Vanessa Sears played Dyanne, Elvis' girlfriend at the time, and wowzers - that girl can wail! This show will make you yearn for the music of the past! I recognized and could sing along with almost every song. Some of the hits included: Blue Suede Shoes, Real Wild Child, Folsom Prison Blues, Fever, That's All Right, I Walk the Line, Great Balls of Fire, and See You Later Alligator. In total, 23 songs were covered - all hip-shaking soul-stirring epic tunes! The music was good in the 50's, and I swear it sounds even better today.

The performers were all strong. Each managed to capture the essence of their character. Christopher Fordinal plays Elvis and has killer moves, Greg Gale plays Johnny Cash and has that deep voice and similar mannerisms, Kale Penny plays Carl Perkins and sounded amazing both vocally and on guitar, and well, my fave performer of the night was Christo Graham as Jerry Lee Lewis. His mastery of the piano was top-notch, as was his acting (he got to play the cocky new kid in town and provided lots of humour to the show). And as previously stated, Vanessa Sears as Dyanne was a force to be reckoned with and had major charisma and a voice that easily rivaled "the boys." I dare you not to melt when you hear her rendition of "Fever."

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the awesome performance put on by Ryan Parker who played Sam Phillips. He was extremely charismatic with his booming voice and engaging smile. He was a lovable character who truly appreciated good music and fostering the talents of his "boys." Heck, even the back-up musicians were wonderful, with Nelson Collins-Lee playing the drummer and Paul Cournoyer playing the bass (he has an entertaining scene at the end where he plays his base while laying down on it!). 

The set was made to look just like the Sun Records Studio, and I enjoyed the little details such as the "recording" light coming on whenever they played a new track. It truly looked like a 50's studio and that added to the authenticity of the show. The dress was on point as well, although I must admit - I think I prefer the music of the 50's to the fashion :)

Huge shout out to Ted Dykstra as well, for directing such an excellent production. I only became familiar with his work with last year's Evangeline, and with this follow-up, I am pretty sure everything he touches turns to musical gold. 

Edmontonians - if you love the tunes of the 50's, hurry hard and score tickets. They are holding over the show and tickets have been released for Nov 17, 18 and 19! 

How can you miss out on this goodness?

Photo Credit: David Cooper Photography

Sunday, November 6, 2016

If you are an Albertan, you better visit the Mountains!

I feel the need to give special recognition to the mountains in this blog post. I was just in Banff from Oct 12-16, and it was an amazing time. I was also in Banff in April, and in Jasper in November. The nice thing about living in Edmonton is that it is reasonable and affordable to take three mountain trips in a year, as all you really need is a long weekend. I am a deal-hunter, so I tend to use Groupon, Travelzoo or Hotwire to try and score good deals. I've never been disappointed with any of my accommodations, and most have been around the $125 night price point, which I feel is super-reasonable for the views and ambiance! My fave so far was the Banff Park Lodge, which had a wonderful Travelzoo deal. Our view was the Bow River and the mountains, and we just loved our room! 

Don't get me wrong, if I was rich I would definitely splurge on the Fairmont Banff Springs from time to time, but the thing I've realized is that one can walk around the Fairmonts, indulge in a cocktail in the lounge, and almost have the "Fairmont Experience" but for much less. I always love looking in the art galleries in the Fairmonts, and seeing the mostly Canadian artists. 

I also like to go on a day hiking adventure every time I go to the mountains, whether it is Maligne Canyon in Jasper (so beautiful in winter when the icicles hang off of it), or the Bow River in Banff. Heck, I just realized there were hoodoos in the mountains on my last trip to Banff. I grew up a southern Alberta girl and was under the impression hoodoos only existed in the badlands. Wrong!

I often hear that people in Alberta don't go to the mountains as often as they want... maybe because Banff and Jasper are so close and it seems like one can go anytime. My plea to you all is - get out there, go! The mountains are magical! When you are there, you can't help but be happy and feel awestruck. You can literally get there in less than half a day from most parts of Alberta, and once there - you are in world class tourist spot, filled with fresh air and beauty! Skiing and snowboarding season is just around the corner, if that's what floats your boat. I personally tend to eat, drink and walk around, ha, but that's the beauty - there is something there for everyone!

Get your Canada Park Pass while you can - it will be good for an extra year since 2017 is free for the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation

Can you spot the mountain hoodoos in Banff?

The Bow River in Banff - two views

Jasper's Maligne Canyon

Mountain critters

On the grounds of the Jasper Park Lodge, and in their art gallery!

Bronze by Camie, below

Wish I knew the two artists below, but I do not.

Ignite Festival 2015 - A Lesson in How to Hold a Conference

My last post about the 2016 Launch Party made me want to travel back in time for a little bit and write about the Ignite Edmonton Festival. I know it was over a year ago, but it remains to this day the best damn festival/conference/event or whatever you want to call it, in terms of organization, inspiration and beauty. Ignite was held Sept 9-10, 2015 and it brought together entrepreneurs, thought leaders, creative types, and change-makers from across Edmonton. Edmonton Economic Development put it on, and they did a mighty fine job! 

There were main stage sessions with some big names like Nir Eyal who talked about how to "hook" people on a product, and Jane McGonigal who talked about the importance of games. There were also lots of workshops on everything from community building to crowdfunding, and it was super cool to listen to people like Andrew Ference and Karen Unland, who both work hard to make Edmonton a better place. 

Before it was called Ignite, the same festival existed as E-town, and it was super cool as well, with lots of interesting speakers (my life was changed by listening to Peter Diamandis talk about the future and abundance) and dynamic musicians. The E-Town version of the event had live music in the evening (Barenaked Ladies one year and Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk the next), while the Ignite version had networking and drinks instead. Although I love a live musical performance, the networking was actually better, as I made tons of connections, including meeting my boyfriend. It's too hard to talk to strangers with a band playing, and so some drinks and lounge music is better suited to encouraging people to meet one another.

The sad news is that this event has ended, likely due to the economic downturn. I do hope that organizers realize how valuable and wonderful it was. Heck, even the "break out rooms" were carefully designed by locals, and the results were fabulous. Take a look at these gems, and you will see the Shaw Conference Centre looking the best I've ever seen it!

I truly hope that if the economy picks up, this fabulous conference re-IGNITEs itself, as it was my fave festival and I've learned so much from it. I still follow Peter Diamandis, Tom Peters, Bruce Croxon, and Chris Hadfield (they even had Canada's most famous astronaut here!) on Twitter. I think thought stimulating and inspiring conferences with an inter-disciplinary twist are exactly what Edmonton needs. I never really expressed my gratitude for these three events, and then they were gone. So while it's a bit late - I just want to say, "I love you E-town and Ignite." Thanks EEDC!

Entrepreneurs are Cool. So is Launch Party and Startup Edmonton.

I am a public servant who has a secure job and I work best when I have a defined task. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I've always been obsessed with entrepreneurs and innovation. Once Startup Edmonton hit town, working alongside the Edmonton Economic Development Incorporation, tons of super fun entrepreneurial events have hit Etown. One of these is Launch Party, which takes place during Startup Week (which was Oct 19-23 this year). I was lucky that Chad and I managed to attend this event for the second year, and it was even bigger and better than last time. It was held high up in the Epcor Tower, with amazing views of City Hall and downtown Edmonton:

Launch Party describes itself as "a party designed to celebrate and showcase rockstar entrepreneurs in our community." All of the entrepreneurs launching their businesses get to have a space where they demo their products or ideas, and they also get a few minutes to present to the entire crowd and explain their business innovation. Launch Party alumni include: MoverGranifyYardstickLoginRadiusPoppy BarleyJobberMailout Interactive, and Showbie.

This year there were seven local companies that launched their products, and all of them fill a much-needed niche. For instance, I had already read about Taproot Edmonton, but it was cool to hear about it first-hand. It's a new way to do journalism, where paying members can actually suggest the stories they want to read about. The old model of journalism appears to be collapsing, especially when you consider the massive layoffs at the Journal and elsewhere this year. I think it's brilliant local entrepreneurs are trying to innovate in this realm. 

Some of the more fun and interactive businesses involved games and virtual reality experiences. RunGunJumpGun was a super simple but tricky game that I was able to pick up in only minutes. I could see myself playing this on my cell on the bus! 

vrCAVE was my fave new business though, as it was the first time I got to experience virtual reality!!! They created a Hospital of Horror for Halloween, and attendees were able to play a few minutes for free. It was so cool! Two people play at once and can interact with each other. I actually felt like I was in a different world, and I could move chairs and interact with objects. I can't wait to see what else they do with this technology!

Other great launches included TradePros, Run-WithIT, FilmReel by Fava, and Dealcloser. You can read about them all using the recap link from Launch Party

If you like Design and Pretty Things, You'll Love Vignettes

I am extremely lucky that my boyfriend makes beautiful things and I get to attend cool design and art events with him. For the second year in a row, I was invited to go to the Vignettes Showcase VIP Gala held on Sept. 15 and see the lovely rooms designed by multi-disciplinary teams consisting of designers, craftsmen/women, artists, woodworkers, and contractors. It was held in the old Sobey's building on Jasper and 104 street, and it was amazing!  There were ten teams who each designed their own space, which they had freedom to choose. There were bathrooms, living rooms, whisky lounges - you name it! The space itself was also transformed with giant trees and greenery, delicious cocktail stations, and some snacks from Evoolution and Get Cooking. The space was absolutely gorgeous and I was impressed with the level of design talent in Edmonton.

I am extremely proud to say that my boyfriend Chad Baba from MK Baba designs was on the winning team - Beauty in Ruins. Their vignette was breathtaking - it looked like a bathroom hidden in a secret garden paradise. Their own description said it best:
"Imagine you are in the hills of Tuscany and you come across these ruins. There once stood a structure with four walls and a roof but now hardly resembles a structure at all. Two of the walls are amazingly still standing, made from brick but weathered by the elements and overgrown with foliage. The floor is a rustic hardwood, obviously many years old and extremely weathered as well. 
However this space has been transformed into something beautiful. A serene outdoor bathing space. This once simple building turned to ruins has been re-purposed and turned into a secret oasis that is peaceful and calm." 

One of my favorite details was the bust turned into a faucet and named Farrah Faucet! HAHA.

You can learn more about this year's Vignettes winners in the December issue of Avenue magazine. I can't wait to see teh write-up! Yeahhh!

As well, check out the Vignettes website and/or search #vignettesyeg on instagram.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I also didn't encourage you to check out the MK Baba instagram to see what Chad is up to!

I also have some cool pics from last year, when Vignettes was in a smaller space but still awesome! I'll include a few just because they are so pretty! The first pic is from Chad group's space last year called the Porch. 


There is so much talent in Edmonton! If you can afford it, shop local and employ a local designer, craftsperson, woodworker etc.

Check out Alberta Ballet - It is 50!!!

Last year was my first time getting into theatre in a serious way. I bought season tickets for the Citadel and Theatre Network and went hard at the Fringe. What really stuck with me though was the absolutely excellent season the Citadel had - I can clearly remember being blown away by Boom, falling in love with the music and costumes and sheer epic-ness of Evangeline, feeling the visceral anger in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and being utterly entertained by West Side Story. Every single play that season was a knock-out, and it was a no-brainer for me to renew my season tickets this year.

I then noticed that the Alberta Ballet was celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year! I figured if the Citadel killed it in its 50th year, the ballet probably would too. I didn't splurge quite as much, as I was less familiar with the ballet, and so I bought a three-pack subscription to get my feet wet. I chose Shadowland by Pilobus, Life by BalletBoyz, and Romeo and Juliet. So far I've seen Pilobus, and wow - it was quite the show!

                                                         Photo by Ian Douglas

The ballet was non-traditional and involved the Pilobus Dance troupe, who used shadows and light to play with the size and depth of objects and characters, which made me feel like I was in a dream. The ballet was whimsical, uber-creative, and had a soundtrack full of great tunes. The ballet felt like a magic show, full of illusions. The performers would contort their bodies to create new objects, and I would wonder how they did it. It was both sad and uplifting, and by the end I think the whole audience was swept up in a "dreamlike land of darkness, light, and adventure." The ending was particularly heart-warming, as they tailored it to the Edmonton audience by creating the Muttart pyramids with their bodies, referencing the Oilers, and of course, signalling their appreciation for Canada with a beaver.

Here's a YouTube video that gives you a glimpse into Shadowland!

Now, I know the whole point of blogging is to be timely, so that if I love something, I can encourage you to go. But - like I said, I took a five year hiatus and I am just practicing and catching up. And - while you may have missed this show, there are at least five more to go! I highly encourage everyone in Edmonton to visit the Alberta Ballet website and choose one that appeals to you. I will admit that I can't wait to see Life - a ballet comprised of male dancers. I saw the pics - those BalletBoyz are cute!

As well, if you like contributing to a community with feedback and the opportunity to ask questions, it is interesting to note that Talk Alberta Ballet was also established this year, and it is a website that allows ballet patrons to comment on the shows, brainstorm what they want to see in the future, and ask questions such as "What does a dancer's week look like?" There are members of the Alberta Ballet participating on the site, and so you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what the ballet is like from their perspective. I've enjoyed participating so far, and I think it is a great innovation for their 50th year!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A new twist on Fat and Fortune

Sooo... it's been a very long time since I've written a blog. And I've been craving an opportunity to write for fun rather than work. But the thing is - my blog was focused on selling Visalus in order to lose fat and make a fortune. At the time I thought I could possibly achieve these goals by selling and drinking nutritional shakes. How naive I was. I realize now that it was silly to think I could keep up a blog on such a narrow topic, and one of interest to so few people. I also became disillusioned with Visalus and direct selling, and gave up writing the blog. But lately I've been craving a return to blogging, so I need to transform this space into something new.

I think Fat and Fortune can still be an appropriate title though. The thing is... I love food! I love cooking, taking classes and going to Edmonton's fine foodie events. In the last few years I've been in a garlic cooking competition, taken classes on everything from Thai to Turkish cooking, and mastered the art of buns. I've studied Ayruvedic cooking and learned to make ghee. In fact, I love healthy fats, from ghee to coconut oil to the delicious olive oil at Evoolution (they put on great classes as well). So rather than aim only to lose fat, I've embraced food and learned to honour it. Now don't get me wrong, I still want to loose weight, haha, but as I get older I realize there's a lot more to life.

That's where the fortune part comes into play. I am very fortunate to live in the city of Edmonton where I can partake in numerous festivals (the Fringe, Taste of Edmonton, and Heritage Days are my faves!), attend amazing theater productions at the Citadel, listen to sweet sounds at the Winspear and marvel at the skill of ballet dancers at the Jubilee, not to mention the free fun of walking around the Leg grounds or strolling down Whyte. I also have the most caring family, an amazing job, wonderful friends, a talented boyfriend ... I am very grateful. All in all, I am a fortunate soul surrounded by beautiful people who make life a joy.

My goal is to write about and highlight some of these people and events. I'll start by going back in time, since I slacked off and skipped so many amazing things I really wanted to write about. I want to post some old photos and let you know some of the things in this city that have inspired me. Kinda cheesy to go back in time... but it will give me a chance to practice how the heck one is supposed to add photos, change text, create hyperlinks and all that jazz. It's been years! And then - from this time onward - I will be in the groove to write about current events. So please join me in my adventures to enjoy fat and celebrate the fortunate life we live in this great city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.