Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Polar Sea


I am riveted by this amazing TVO series - it has it all - gorgeous scenery, art , music, an environmental message, science, an international cast of explorers and it's just breathtaking. It mainly follows the journey of a trio of Scandinavian friends on their lifelong desire to explore the Northwest Passage - cue the great Stan Rogers.

Mixed in are portraits of Greenlanders such as a activist musican and a chef, an ice sculptor from New York who is creating instruments for an avant garde Norwegian musician, a family from France, a luxury cruise and we're only at episode two - we haven't seen a lot of wildlife yet except for some curious whales. Fascinating and a good reason to make a donation to TVO!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Brenda Lewis at Musideum

 Just a brief heads up - my friend and talented vocalist Brenda Lewis will be at Musideum along with fabulous guitarist Margaret Stowe on Friday October 17th at 8 p.m. In case you haven't been, Musideum is a cozy venue at the 401 Richmond building, which houses a lot of artists studios and non profits (they also have a fun Christmas craft sale and open house. The Musideum seats about 50 people who are there to listen and not talk over the music. Only $20 people..that's barely more than a movie!


  or you can phone 416 599 7323

Brenda is also recording a CD and you can support that very worthwhile project here:

To quote her press release:

Together this dynamic duo - have captivated audiences in the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, the prestigious McMichael Art Gallery’s concert series, The Flying Beaver Pubaret and many more venues. This past summer, they wowed audience members in the acclaimedBrookside Concert Association summer series at the brand new Midland Cultural Centre.

You can read more about Brenda at her website :

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Orleans - episode deux

Another of our chicken friends
Sadly we had to bid adieu to our temporary home at the Dragonfly Garden and move over to the CBD/CBA - (Central Business District/Area) for Fraser's conference and our stay at the Intercontinental - a lovely hotel, nonetheless. F realized afterwards he probably could have communted from Bywater..:)

Before we left the area we had breakfast at the New Orleans Cake Cafe  - see appetizing photos below!

 Breakfast at the New Orleans Cake

 One of the more unique houses in Bywater...

 You can't see it but this tree has numerous Mardi Gras necklaces hanging from it.

After settling into our new digs it was off to ride the historic St. Charles streetcar through the Garden District with a brief stop at Audubon Park. I believe it is the oldest operating streetcar line in North America - wooden benches!

 One of the beautiful houses of the Garden District...
 Fraser couldn't resist a photo of me "tripping" over the sidewalk. This is a common feature in older neighbourhoods with mature careful if you are tipsy after dark....
 We also stopped and checked out Magazine Street where we sampled a green juice from FARE( 4838 Magazine Street)  along with a chocolate pecan cookie and bought some crackers - they are gluten and soy free and have a few vegan options as well as catering to a paleo diet.  Further along we stopped at Superfoods Bar (4113 Magazine) www. - they have lots of juices/smoothies (F got a nut based one) salads and sell some healthy supplements like protein powders etc.
They had photos on the wall of Bathsheba in Barbados!

Many places were closed due to it being Sunday so we walked a bit further and then took a bus back to the hotel...travelling through another interesting area of Magazine - is this area known as the Irish Channel?

After an air conditioned break it was off to SEED a new vegan restaurant on 1330 Pyrtania - below is their version of a Po'Boy with tofu - scrumptious! We also had a kale and mango salad and for dessert as per our server's recommendation a Chocolate Mousse to die for! He also gave us a sample of their raw onion flax crackers...yumm.

 Afterwards another ride on the streetcar brought us back to Canal Street and a stroll through Bourbon Street..below is me having a famous Hurricane at Pat O'Briens.

 No Zydeco tonight but over on Frenchmen street was a guitarist singing Neil Young! Also a duo of saxophone and guitar/vocals doing "Bring It On Home to Me". Pat O'Briens by the way is a BIG place - F's brother used to work there many moons ago as a bartender.

On Decatur street we ran into our across the hall neighbour  Shane and his friend Todd. Oddly enough they had planned a trip to NOLA too! Shane is a pilot with Air Canada and was on standby so he unfortunately got bumped from our flight when they changed to a smaller plane. No matter - being resourceful they flew to Houston and rented a car! Of all the people to run into in New Orleans! We had been wondering what had happened to them and now we knew...they were enjoying lots of gumbo!

It seems I didn't take a picture or F didn't of our lunch on Monday at Meals from the Heart ( - this great counter in the French Market. It's low fat, low salt, healthy food with vegan options and food can be prepared whenever - so you can have afternoon pancakes if you want. We enjoyed Black Bean Soup, a nice salad and complimentary fruit while we waited. I got a roasted Portobello and vegetable sandwich prior to my flight the next day - delicious.  They got a chuckle out of us switching plates half way through our meals.

On my own it was time to do some shopping - I bought a cool t-shirt created by a local artist in CocoAlly . I didn't realized until afterwards that she is also vegan! My shirt is grey..I love it. I think I may have to order another comfy. I also got a onesie for my great niece Sophie and some "wish dogs".

I also found Rouse's grocery store where I bought a bunch of spice mixes including one for Red Beans and Rice! I also bough a great retro style dress from a store called Trashy Diva!
  It's a 1940's style "flutter" dress -

Next stop - a New Orleans institution - Hove Parfumeur on Chartres Street in the Quarter - enchanting little shop that features a wealth of in house scents. I bought "Mantrap" a spicy oriental and the lovely "Habanera" - which features tobacco flower. They also special in a number of traditional scents associated with New Orleans such as Sweet Olive and Vetiver, Spanish Moss and Heliotrope (one of my faves) - there are perfumes and eau de toilettes, in a variety of sizes, solid perfumes, shower gels, talcs and massage and body oils as well as soaps and candles. The salesperson said they have a number of Canadian customers who mail order..I think I may be one of them...I had such a hard time deciding since many of the scents were wonderful. I also liked "Flame" and "Whirlwind".

Closer to the hotel I discovered a sleek cafe called Merchant and enjoyed an iced latte. They can also do some veg items like salads etc.  They are located at 800 Common Street.

Another night on Frenchmen Street - we stopped again at Maison but since they didn't have anything vegan on the menu I hopped across the road to 13 Bar and Restaurant and got an Herbed Tofu sandwich which was good.

A couple of last photos here from the French Quarter - after coffee at the Spitfire Cafe, grabbing from sandwich from Meals from the Heart and some cool earrings from Dutch Alley Artists Co-op - "Glamour Trash" is the label, it was homeward bound.

I bought some choclate at the Vosges kiosk in Chicago O'Hare. I have to say I now know what Louis means when he sings "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Orleans - Bywater

Displaying image.jpgThe Big Easy. The Crescent City. The City that Care Forgot. The Birthplace of Jazz, a feast for the senses, a big pot of delicious gumbo....New Orleans is all those things and more.

I will have more photos to come - once I get my husband to forward his photos from his new toy/iPhone. But above we have the classic beignets from Cafe du Monde. The gentleman below were performing out front...

Displaying image.jpgEverywhere you go there is music in the air and an amazing number of phenomenal street muscians...

Our first few days were spent in the area called Bywater - not far from the French Quarter to the east. Filled with colourful little houses, like little wedding cakes and also a number of interesting and delicious restaurants, cafe and clubs - patronized by the oh so hip residents - i.e. lots of guys with full beards..this area was a delight.

At the edge of Fabourg Marigny - the next area from the French Quarter heading east and neighbouring Bywater.

We stayed through Air B and B at the wonderful "Dragonfly Inn B and B" - our host Victoria was a wealth of information about the area - she also had restaurant menus and maps etc. In our backyard were some enchanting resident chickens and two rescue pigs! The accommodatiosns were lovely with a big high bed our own kitchen facilities including coffemaker, blender, microwave, stove (in case someone wanted to do some cooking /baking). There were also lots of snacks provided and an Emerg-C Electrolyte replacer - thoughtful!
Me and one of the bicycles in front of Dragonfly Garden B and B

Loved the streets signs embedded in the sidewalks....

Taking her suggestion to check out Frenchmen Street (a better alternative to Bourbon) we listened to the great Shotgun Jazz Band at Maison - the leader of the group is a Canadian and she provided powerful vocals and trumpet. The trombone player, also female, was a standout! They of course played traditional jazz. While wandering down the street we also heard a fine brass band a la Dirty Dozen and visited the artists market - which happens at night. For dinner we had some yummy Mediterranean food at Mona's, stuffed grape leaves, a big salad, hummous and pita etc.  We also checked out Bourbon Street - which was loud and busy - but no where near as crazy as during Mardi Gras Fraser assured me, where it takes half an hour to walk a block. Frenchmen Street is like what Bourbon Street used to be..when F last visited some 30 years ago all the venues had jazz - not the case any more...most are rock and roll.
Shotgun Jazz Band
Brass band on the corner of Frenchmen Street

I remained frustrated with my Zydeco search, though....caught the last tune of a band at a place in Bywater. Drat.


Another sultry Southern day with the temperature hovering around 31 -32 C. It seemed common for thunderstorms to happen mid-day or early afternoon and then clear out. We decided to get out of the city for a few hours and took a plantation tour through Cajun Adventures.  En route to the pick up spot on Decatur (The French Market Inn) we perused shops at the French Market, the restaurants/take out places and for me - jewellery - yes, I bought some from Oscar.  I had also researched all the veg options prior to our trip - I suggest checking out this blog:

This post was extremely helpful to us!!

Breakfast at Satsuma!

We got on our bikes - provided at the Dragonfly and set out over some verr-r-r-ry bumpy roads to Satsuma Cafe on 3218 Dauphine street for some vegan brunch, enjoying a black bean and tofu scramble, salad and a juice. They sure love their ginger in juices here - I guess they have a more spicy palate. Also avocado and asparagus show up in salads alot! We arrived over on Decatur before the heavens opened up and it was off to the country and the Laura and Oak Alley Plantations.

Our shuttle driver - Elly - gave us a steady stream of tourist info as he drove such as the Mercedes Benz Superdome holds 97.000 people. He had us introduce ourselves to our neighbours - across the aisle from Nottingham, in front from Australia and behind us two ladies from....Mississauga. We drove over a lot of elevated highways - a necessity where there is so much swamp!

Laura Plantation with Camille our guide

Our tour guide at Laura was Camille, a live wire Creole, herself a descendant of plantation owners on the river. At one time there was possibly 300 slaves on the plantation and 67 cabins..slaves worked up to 14 hour days and didn't have the most sustaining or nutritious diet. I could sense this overwhelming feeling of sadness. The plantation was run by the women (most efficiently by Laura's fearsome grandmother) as the Creoles chose not necessarily the eldest son but the smartest child to run things. Seems a lot of the menfolk didn't live that long or well - lots of drinking,carousing and gambling...sometimes they were sent to France to straighten themselves out. Laura wrote a book about plantation life in the 1930's at the urging of her daughters and due to that other massive bestseller of the time period.

Interestingly, the most "troublesome" slaves were placed furthest away from the house and the prettiest...ahem, closest.

Fraser on the upper porch looking over Oak Alley

The next stop was "Oak Alley" - which I'm sure you've seen in any number of films. It was featured in "Interview with the Vampire". It's what you would expect a plantation house to look like - Greek Revival columns etc. It's gorgeous and impressive whereas Laura is much more a working plantation - everyone grew sugarcane. Several of our fellow tourists (myself included) enjoyed a mint julep on the tour..powerful stuff. Our driver recounted that recently he had a lady on board who had THREE during the tour and subsequently left a pungent reminder on the bus..oh dear.

Yours truly on the porch of one of the remaining slave cabins. Very tiny. By the way, front porches are de rigeur everywhere here.

Our day concluded back in New Orleans in the French Quarter and dinner at Bennachin - a wonderful African restaurant...see meals below. We had Kone Mi Makondo - Black eyed peas in Onion and Tomato Stew with coconut rice and fried plantain and Baham - Broccoli Cauliflower and Carrots in a Light Ginger Sauce with Couscous. We had leftovers the next day..yumm! The dishes were definitely flavourful with a nice kick - I was not bold enough to try Bikai ni Curry - a spicier dish!

There ain't body here but us chickens......


En route to the St. Charles streetcar we perused shops at the French Market, the restaurants/take out places and for me - jewellery - yes, I bought some from Oscar - iridescent blue feather shapes and red rectangles and a butterfly pin. We plan on going back to check out the "Meals from the Heart" cafe.

One of our backyard residents....

Another lovely house in the neighbourhood....
We decided to go over to Santa Fe Tapas on St. Charles and enjoy their noted Vegan Brunch - we were not disappointed. Fraser counts it as one of the highlights of his trip! He especially enjoyed the vegan gumbo! It think below those are some sort of croquette - I have posted the menu below so you can check.


Mushroom Tostada

Our waiter/entertainment

The might need to enlarge it...

Our waiter/entertainer even did a Gordon Lightfoot tune when he learned we were Canadians...Since we were in the neighbourhood we walked down Terpsichore where Fraser's brother Murray lived when he worked at Pat O'Briens many moons ago...

Then it was back to check out the cemetary next to Louis Armstrong park and Louis' park itself. We squeaked in just before closing at the cemetary and were shooed out along with a few other tourists...

Taking the bus back along St. Claude to our Bywater hood we walked down to Poland Avenue to Bacchanal a fun little bar/restaurant close to the river where they have a wine shop and an amazing selection of wine. There was a free wine tasting and we were already getting a little tipsy before we had our glasses of rose and went downstairs to the patio to enjoy the jazz trio...

The music was great and the mosquitoes were having quite the feast. Our landlady told us and we observed that it's very popular to order a bread and cheese plate to go with the wine.

Before heading to dinner at "Feelings" we checked out the new riverside walkways/park that they have been working on..

This is the view from a bridge over the railroad tracks that's fairly can apparently walk downtown to the French Quarter from there.

The lovely courtyard at "Feelings" and our meal - they have a separate vegan menu. There is also a strictly vegan restaurant upstairs called "Bhava" and I believe a yoga studio.

Next installment...we move from Bywater to downtown - the Intercontinental for Fraser's Inforum conference.


Santa Fe Tapas is on 1327 St. Charles Avenue - so you can take the St. Charles car there. By the way transit in NOLA is super cheap - you can get a day pass for $3!!!/ Each fare is $1.25.