Monday, February 27, 2012

Help Ori Dagan finish his CD!

If you have a few dollars or better yet a few  hundred or thousand dollars to spare - vocalist Ori Dagan could certainly use your help to finish his latest CD. The CD, which features the talents of Mark Kieswetter on piano, Jordon O'Connor on bass,  Nick Fraser on drums and guests Chris Gale on sax, Eric St. Laurent on guitar and Ross McIntyre and extra special guest - Juno award winner Jane Bunnett.

The CD is entitled "Less than Three" and is set to launch at the Al Green Theatre on Saturday April 28th. There are also bonuses involved for your contributions including a CD, VIP tickets to the launch and even Ori's paintings...not to mention a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

To help finance this worthy project go to this address:

Thank you for supporting Canada's jazz talent!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Monday meant a drive to that musical destination - Austin and we vowed to "keep it weird" as they like to say, there. My cousin Brian Power met us and gave us a great tour of the city - all the highlights - like South Congress Avenue, 6th street, University of Texas, neighbourhoods etc, Congress Avenue Bridge - where the bats emerge - but we were a couple of months too early for that..darn.

He also pointed out the tower at U of T made infamous by sniper Charles Whitman in 1966 - I understand through my research that is now open again to the public...with security guards and metal detectors. Yikes. He killed 14 people and wounded 32 in 90 minutes. He also stabbed his mother and wife to death before he got to campus.

Enough darkness - into the light. We booked a room at Brava House - built in 1889 through a Sears catalogue kit...there is a photo at the top. We had the Garbo suite - with our own dining room plus a front porch and back deck if we wanted it. There were also two cats in residence, a Siamese and black cat - who came to sit on my lap on the deck for a while. 

 That's me at the top of Mt. Bonnell - I hope I got that get a good view of the city...
 We had lunch at Casa da Luz - which appears to be a yoga/meditation centre and had a great macrobiotic buffet with salad, soups, beans (of course), rice, greens and sauerkraut. We had a yummy dinner at Mother's - another Brian recommendation and I had barbecued tofu with sage mashed potatoes and black eyed peas with some blueberry pie for dessert.

That night of course we decided to take a musical excursion and walked over to "Flipnotics" a cafe/music space across the river and used the pedestrian bridge. The first act was a group of kids called "Stringband" I believe - they were not quite as polished as the bluegrass group that followed but they had a lot of enthusiasm and heart. Their mandolin player was quite good.


On Tuesday (Mardi Gras) we visited the Bob Bullock museum to learn everything about Texas - a highlight was the Imax film we saw first - great music including "That's Right (You're Not from Texas)" by Lyle Lovett. Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel also has a part to play in the museum he's the guide to a tour of texas cities - interactive. I have to say it's true what they say - the stars at night are big and bright.

We had a delicious lunch at Veggie Heaven (on Guadalupe) - so much to choose from including an incredible Basil Tofu and some stir fry veggies - mu shu pancakes I would say and a taro bubble tea. Cornucopia - a local popcorn shop next door also lured us in - especially since they had vegan flavours! Walking back to Brava House we checked out shops on 6th street - including a spice shop where I bought Tahitian vanilla and tomato powder - the owner was super nice and helpful - distributing my bottle of vanilla into two smaller ones to satisfy Customs. We also enjoyed looking at kaleidoscopes and even saw glass work in one of the shops that we recognized - we have two large vases by the artist from Mississauga.

An attempted foray to the Continental - already packed had us deciding to cocoon that night - we enjoyed at meal at the Natural Foods cafe (taco salad) and bought some goodies for later - including an almond cookie shaped like Texas.

Wednesday meant shopping on the many interesting boutiques on South Congress - buying some Texas pecans and a grapefruit and on the road back to San Antonio. Another more leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk and having a margarita during happy hour at Cafe Ole, then revisiting Green Vegetarian - portabello mushroom, artichoke and spinach quesadilla and a raw veggie plate with Pecan Hummous - fact - I have made some today.

Our flight back through Denver was relaxed and unadventurous - in fact it was nice to get a breath of fresh, cool mountain air...part of my mind is still back in Texas, I think I understand people's attachment to it - the Imax film said 80% of Texans believe in heaven and 98% already believe they're there...

That last photo of Fraser beside a cactus - shows that yes, everything is bigger in the Lone Star State.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adventures in Texas, y'all - San Antonio

Back to winter in Toronto and part of my adventure was getting to San Antonio on the way flight leaving Toronto was delayed by almost an hour and when I asked at the Air Canada desk they assured me my connecting flight was delayed as I later found out from the United Airlines 5 minutes. So of course I missed it, d'oh. I also asked the clerk at the Air Canada gate where to catch my connection and she told me - at no point telling me the flight had already left.

After a great deal of tension and thankfully being helped out by the United staff and put on standby with a number of others I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief at getting on the 9 p.m. flight to San Antonio - the lady in front of me was also visibly relieved - she had been delayed by customs from Mexico. The United staff expressed surprise that Air Canada hadn't booked me onto the next connecting flight in Toronto - just as a safeguard. So, in this case I was NOT impressed by Air Canada and very impressed by the helpfulness of the United staff. For a while there I had visions of sleeping in the Houston airport as the next flight was 7:30 a.m. the next day - which the United staff also booked me on as a backup plan. So, kudos United and Continental staff. Lesson learned : be the squeaky wheel and insist on getting more information and being booked on the next available flight.  I sure do miss Canadian airlines...sigh.

This is the lovely JW Mariott Hill Country Resort and Spa - the staff were phenomenal - friendly and so accommodating - I wanted to go out for a walk one misty morning and the concierge provided a map and directions and also gave us a map and a coupon on another day when we wanted to visit the Natural Bridge Caverns. I think a certain airline could take lessons. The place is enormous and has a top ranked golf course on its' premises. I enjoyed the spa - I had a wonderfully relaxing Lavender Organic massage courtesy of Monica and boy did I need it after the stress of the day before. The spa facilities also contain a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, aromatherapy room - lots of chairs and chaise longue, herbal teas, water, toiletries etc. etc. I had a nice spinach salad in their cafe as well. I also had a couple of very nice breakfasts in the Cibolo Moon - especially enjoyed their homemade jams and jellies and local honey. The raspberry mojito jam was particularly fun. As a couple of days were a little overcast curling up by the fireplace in the Crooked Branch was also enjoyable while looking out onto the grounds.

 We took the boat tour on RiverWalk as well as walking around and exploring a bit...that's Marilyn in the first photo...

On Sunday we went out the Natural Bridge Caverns...very cool. It's quite humid down there and there are a lot of advisories/precautions as it is quite steep and wet...

We checked the RiverWalk of course and met up with our old friend Marilyn Ferster - a Texas native herself now (she married Greg - a Texan who came up to Edmonton to visit the Folk Festival)...Marilyn was actively involved in the Yardbird Suite - president of the board and it was wonderful to see her. Her daughter Carrie is now getting ready to go to college in time flies.

We also enjoyed a nice meal at San Antonio's vegan restaurant "Vegeria"...a "Flower Power" salad and some enchiladas...



Dinner at Green Vegetarian in downtown San Antonio was delicious - Mushroom Stroganoff and a Black Bean and Quinoa Quesadilla - plus a cupcake and cowboy cookie - with Hibiscus iced tea for me..or just plain tea as they say here. If you want something else it's "Hot Tea"...:)

Next installment - Austin.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Frapin - Nuit de Parfum

1270 Frapin for women and menThis is one of the lovely perfumes were were educated about and got to sample at the Scent Society meetup last night at the atmospheric bistro Le Select on Wellington. Our host Marta came up with a wonderful idea and a charming French rep for the line - Loic Le Guen. Frapin is a renowned cognac producer and using their expertise in distilling have ventured into scent production...naturellement.

I found that the fragrance wardrobe was very much to my liking - with lots of spicy, woody and oriental notes. Loic sprayed the perfumes into goblets - glass being a neutral medium and we enjoyed inhaling the heady aromas. I particularly liked "1270" - which has notes of honey, vanilla, spices, wood and citrus and tonka bean - quite caramelly actually and why I enjoyed the "Carvelle Epicee" as well with notes of nutmeg coriander, caraway, sandalwood, amber and patchouli. I even liked "Espirt des Fleurs" a lighter more feminine floral. The fragrances are very unisex - I think "L'Humaniste and "Passion Boisee" would be great on the men in your life.

According to Fragrantica the cognac house has remained in the family for 20 generations and was established in 1270 - hence the perfume name, their first in fact - in the Grand Champagne region of France. The daughter of the present owners, Beatrice Cointreau introduced the fragrances in 2002 and of course has a hand in the perfume creations.

If you wish to check out these lovely perfumes yourself - check out Noor in Yorkville - in the basement of the Four Seasons at Avenue and Cumberland.

Friday, February 10, 2012


And I certainly was. Young Ben after suffering the untimely loss of his librarian mother in Minnesota and the loss of his hearing embarks on a journey to find his father and his roots in New York. The story also juxtaposes the story of young Rose, daughter of a silent movie star and deaf herself plus cabinets or boxes of wonders, the Museum of Natural History, dioramas and serendipity. Charming and heartwarming.

I was also wonderstruck at the launch of the Holistic Vanity line by Kristen Ma of Pure and Simple fame. There were anti inflammatory snacks and teas courtesy of David's. Her informative and casual talk at the Bata Shoe Museum was all about calming the skin - as a sensitive sister I can relate. Most specifically addressing rosacea - what it is, how to deal with it - including cooling foods - especially from an Ayurvedic perspective - plus provided travel size samples of the new product - just in time for my Texas trip. There were also prize draws and a few lucky people took home goodies like cosmetics from Jane Iredale, the Holistic Vanity line, Zip Car memberships and yoga wear from One Tooth.  I already love the Camellia Oil. Can't wait to try the rest - especially since the spa is located a little too conveniently downstairs in my building :)

. Check out

Really Pretty

 As you may know I do like girly things and I had decided some time ago to visit Pretty Beauty and Books on Markham Street here in Toronto...just south of Bloor, same block as Southern Accent - if that helps you...

I adore trying out new colours and perfumes and these are especially lovely and healthy. They described themselves as "your clean and green beauty counter". Nice.  The lipstick is by Ilia - a Vancouver based line and the tube itself is made of recycled metal with recycled plastic in the interior. And the lipstick or rather "pure lip care" - it's lovely, creamy with beautiful shades - the one I chose (and that was in stock is - "Nobody's Baby"...I wonder if that was Sheila Copps inspired. LOL. As you can see from the blurry photo it's a nice nude shade...I'm waiting for a pretty pink/mauve shade to come in (Blossom Lady) is all the rage in the cosmetic world's spring palette. I think the "Shell Shock" shade looks great too - the proprietor confessed it was one of the only lipsticks where she had ever scooped out the remaining colour from the bottom with a lip brush. I'm not a big lipstick fan - I prefer glosses - but I think this may convert me, especially since it's so soothing!

I also sampled the Tallulah Jane perfume line - which is based in New York and is natural. I am partial to Tallulah and Leotie right now but have the 333 and Gotham as samples as well. I also admired their line of Scotch nail polishes - non toxic and friendly and they come in amazing colours - the colour below is called "Seething Jealousy" - other names include "Kiltlifter" - red in time for Valentine's! They also sell the RMS Beauty line - a raw product line which features lip and cheek tints and a cult favourite illuminator and even offer classes on how to use your newly acquired goodies. 

Visit them online at or visit them at 587 Markham Street. The proprietor - Andrea? was also reading an interesting book "The Encyclopedia of the Exquisite" written by a former Vogue staffer....two of my fave things books and beauty!

Speaking of beauties the Satin Dolls will be at Trane Studio tonight - billed as Toronto's only female jazz vocal quartet - and features the talents of Illana Waldston, Liz Tansey, Donna Green and Karen Bell.

I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate all the amazing Juno nominees announced this week including Diana Panton and Fern Lindzon for vocal jazz album, Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett for best Contemporary Jazz Album along with Phil Dwyer. Dave Young's Quintet, Kirk McDonald's Orchestra and of course one of my fave saxophonists - Mike Murley! The entire list is below thanks to the Ottawa Citizen.

Rest of the Story, Chris Tarry (Nineteen Eight)
New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, Colin Stetson (Constellation/Outside)
Idiosyncrasie, François Bourassa Quartet (Effendi/Sélect)
Cuban Rhapsody, Hilario Duran & Jane Bunnett (Alma/Universal)
Changing Seasons, Phil Dwyer Orchestra feat. Mark Fewer (Alma/Universal)
Aspects of Oscar, Dave Young Quintet (Modica/Independent)
Verge, David Braid (Independent)
Deep Shadows, Kirk MacDonald Orchestra (Addo)
Still Rollin’, Mike Murley Septet (Cornerstone/Outside)
Live In Baden, Oliver Jones (Justin Time/EMI)
To Brazil With Love, Diana Panton (Independent/eOne)
Two Kites, Fern Lindzon (Independent)
Le carré de nos amours, Sonia Johnson (Effendi/Sélect)
In The Moonlight, Sophie Milman (eOne)
Skin Tight, The Nylons (Linus/Universal)