Friday, May 11, 2012 Youth Big Band at Jazz Lives 2012

Michael plays in the Youth Big Band, an educational outreach program of, the not-for-profit all-jazz station here in Toronto. A couple of weeks ago they played a set in the big annual fundraising drive, Jazz Lives, to a sold-out crowd Koerner Hall, the biggest venue they've ever played.

Michael is the bass trombone, far right of middle row.

Here's a 12-minute video describing the goals and accomplishments of this wonderful ensemble of young musicians.


Jazz FM 91.1 is my go-to radio station in the car, which is pretty much the only time I have the radio on. They broadcast in the GTA and northern New York, and stream online around the world. Their fundraising drive is almost over, and while I miss the music, it's fantastic to hear where people are calling in from. Jazz stations are slowly disappearing...there's no all-jazz format in London (UK), Chicago or Philadelphia. Today there was a caller from Israel donating in the name of her father. This station is accessible to anyone with an internet connection and brings jazz lovers from all over the world together, and showcases a ton of Toronto and Canadian talent. Their educational outreach is the way they hope to build the audience of the future.

I'm normally not big on dogs in costumes, but....

...this is priceless!


Adventures in tea

Zou and I have been drinking a lot of loose leaf tea recently. We have some red tea brought from China as a gift, and then received a selection of loose teas at Christmas. 

I'd been brewing tea in a small french press coffee maker which worked wonderfully but, a week or so ago, it hit the ceramic kitchen floor and broke. We have a small Piao i teapot that Z brought back from his travels but it only makes a very small cup, maybe half a mug. So after a doctor's appointment, I popped into Teaopia at Fairview Mall and invested in a larger Tea Master that makes 16 ounces at a time. Unlike our smaller one, this pot steeps the tea and then you pop it onto your cup to release the brewed (and strained) liquid. The leaves can be reused to make an additional pot.


Teopia sells a wide variety of teas, including bulk teas in dozens of formulations. I picked up three types in (reusable) tins, one each of Irish Breakfast Tea, Caramelissimo (dessert in a cup!), and Sleep Well. The tins can be refilled at the store at a discounted price.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Shelf Awareness hits it out of the park

I subscribe to Shelf Awareness' weekly newletter and it was just chock full of good stuff today.

You can check out the rest of the newsletter here.


    I'm currently reading Mindy Kaling's memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and it's a fast, light, and very funny read. Kaling is a producer and writer for the American version of The Office and also plays Kelly Kapoor. 

      Enhanced by Zemanta

      Wednesday, May 9, 2012

      The shovel's in the ground.


      Pick shovel

      Pick shovel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      We are undertaking our first major piece of renovation work on the house. It had needed (exterior) painting for three years or so, and the trim is in appalling condition so we're replacing it with afaux stucco product. We'll also add quoins to the corners of the house to give it a little presence.

      We had a horrid railroad-tie-and-brick front porch/landing in which the bricks were sinking making it a trip hazard. There were also no handrails. Our contractor has dug it all up and is replacing it with flamed granite over concrete plus aluminum handrails. We'll probably go with "Sunset Granite" and a black handrail, the design of which we haven't settled on.

      Finally, we're going to replace our aging windows with new ones. I am seriously thinking of getting integrated blinds for our main floor windows so that we don't need to worry about drapes. At the moment we have louvred shutters which are irritating as you can't place furniture in front of them (or you have to leave the shutters closed.)

      It feels good to be getting going on this, and we have an excellent contractor who does one job at a time, hiring help when he needs it.


      In other breaking news, I'm still sick. Don't think either the antibiotics or inhaler are doing a jot. Missed Kathleen Turner in High at the Royal Alex on Tuesday and the TSO doing The Planets tonight because of my hacking. I haven't been able to sing with my choir for weeks. So I'm heading back to see my family doc and hope to get in on the secret, heavy-duty cough syrup. Or whatever. My lack of sleep and other nasty byproducts of uncontrollable cough have GOT to stop.

      Enhanced by Zemanta

      Friday, May 4, 2012

      Health update

      "Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases - As ...

      "Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases - As Dangerous as Poison Gas Shells". U.S. Public Health ad on dangers of Spanish Flu epidemic during World War I. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      The good news: it's not pnemonia.

      The bad news: I'm still coughing, wheezing, feverish (low-grade) and short of breath. 

      My family doc changed the antibiotics I was on as I was seeing no improvement after five days, and he gave me a "Turbuhaler", a newfangled inhaler that should reduce inflammation in my lungs.

      This has been the most annoying illness ever: my trip to England was pretty much a wash-out and I'm worried about upcoming arts events where hacking coughs are discouraged. Next week we have tickets for a play and the orchestra.

      It's been three weeks now and I'm SO annoyed by this. I need to apply for a building permit for some work we're having done on the house and I have no energy to do the drawings, fill out the forms, and stand in line at City Hall. I managed to get our taxes done, and luckily TurboTax caught some mistakes that I'm sure I made because I was delerious (well, feverish, at least).

      Anyway, gotta run. Got another (unrelated) medical test to get to today. Sorry for the boring post. I'll try to do better next time.

      Enhanced by Zemanta

      Tuesday, May 1, 2012

      Here Comes the Sun....

      Little darlin''s been a long cold lonely winter.

      Little darlin'... it seems like years since it's been here.


      Today felt like the right day to get back to my blog. My last post was in December and I've been carried through the last few months on the backs of those who love me. 

      Some of the things that I look forward to, cultural events, travel, singing, have been whizzing by me and I've only been able to partially engage. These past two weeks I have struggled with a very bad cold that started in my chest, and is ending there. My allergies have compounded the problem, but I feel like I'm coming out on top.

      I am feeling the need to write more, to find creative ways to express myself, both publicly and privately. I have signed up for a webinar that introduces LifeJournal software to see if that might be a platform that I could use for my personal writing. I need to pick up knitting needles, or an embroidery needle, or set up a sewing space to get back to a quilt I've started. My plan is to claim a basement bedroom that is normally used for guests as a place where I can leave my work out for short periods of time.

      We have some interesting things on the cultural calendar this month, and I hope to use this space to blog about them.

      We're seeing the play High starring Kathleen Turner at the Royal Alex next week. We've also got tickets for the TSO's performance of Holst's The Planets for which Michael will be joining us. His school music program does their May Lyrics concert that week as well. The following week we have another Books on Film event at TIFF featuring Graham Greene's novel The Third Man and 1949 film starring Orson Welles.

      My reading life has suffered somewhat recently, but I recently finished Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty. My review over at Goodreads read:

      I love Hollinghurst's prose, and would have given this five stars. But I can only take so many pages of coke-fuelled gay sex and this novel went over my limit. 

      That aside, it captures the times so aptly: the British class structure; and the world of rich young men (and their hangers on) who want to DO something, like publish a glossy art magazine; the intersection of race and wealth; and what sexual sins are forgivable.

      I also had a quick re-read of the Keep Toronto Reading pick Girls Fall Down prior to Sunday's book club gathering. I'm currently at work on The Vault by Ruth Rendell. Next up will be Peter Robinson's latest(?) called Before the Poison, a stand-alone mystery, not part of the Inspector Banks series.

      Enough for today but I'll be back soon. May is looking up!