Monday, November 30, 2009

A lovely night at Brookside

Hi folks!

A belated update on our Friday house concert at Brookside Cottage (hey, we've been busy!).

After our previous week's MacDonald Bridge delay, we decided to start of very early (especially on a Friday) to give ourselves time for traffic jams getting out of the city. Turns out we were a bit over-enthusiastic, though, because we got to Hubbards in no time at all -- and before our host, Maggie, had said she'd be home! So we did a little toodle through town -- a very sweet, picturesque place, for sure!

We drove in to Brookside Cottage, which is, indeed a brook-side cottage! We wish we'd gone there before it got dark, to see it in all its glory. Maggie had given us excellent directions (much better than MapQuest, which would have had us going north of Enfield, about an hour and a half the wrong way!), and as we came around the final corner, she had a sign for "Brookside Cottage" all done up in sparkly lights, just to be sure. We parked the car and then headed across the footbridge -- also done up in sparkly lights -- to the sweet little cottage.

Inside, Maggie, mom Pat and cousin Sally were cooking up a storm -- it was everything my real estate agent would have loved: the smell of cinnamon and cookies baking. What a welcome! Since we were about two hours early, we had lots of time to get set up and get to know everyone -- including Pumpkin, the cat who spent much of her time hiding under Maggie's bed, but did make a few appearances. All three of these women have had some great adventures, it seems -- Maggie is quite the world traveller, and Pat has joined her on an expedition to the Antarctic, while Sally has toured much of our own continent on her motorbike since retiring. They all had a great sense of humour and were tons of fun to spend time with!

It was a small but mighty "crowd" -- ten people, though I don't think there would have been much more room in there, it was pretty cosy! Maggie's original thought had been to present house concerts in the summer time, with artists performing on the porch, but silly us, we were there in November. :-) But that's just fine with us -- a smaller group means we can get to know everybody better!

Once again, though, it felt like we were following Taylor's ghost. We were Maggie's first house concert at the Cottage, but Taylor was supposed to play there in October, four days after she was killed. It really hammers things home, sometimes... we have to enjoy all these moments while they're here!

Ah yes, and the obligatory food and beverage report: Maggie et al had brewed up some lovely mulled wine, plus laid out a lovely spread of veggies and dips, oven-fresh cookies, etc. Guest Prisca brought a large Toblerone to share (mm-mmm!), Bob and Julia some mini chocolate-covered cheesecakes, and somebody else (sorry, forget who!) brought chocolate brownies. Decadent! We tried to save ourselves for after the show, though couldn't help a few nibbles at intermission...

After finally being able to enjoy a glass of that yummy-smelling mulled wine, we packed up our stuff, bid adieu to our host(s), and headed back to Hali. Unloaded the instruments at Mom's (still not home from her babysitting duties), and headed around the corner to Freeman's, where the kitchen is open until 5am -- our kind of place! We wanted to try some of the local suds, but they're renovating, so the only pump operating was Rickard's Red, sigh... I had a three-cheese penne with spinach salad, both of which were very good (except that I forgot to ask for no bacon, so had to fling bacon bits at my sweetie), and Don had the "Hot Little Italian" -- yes, with my permission! :-) It was another penne dish, but chock full of spicy italian sausage.

Alrighty, I've got to go over to Tarah & Daniel's house to look after Lilly and Wyatt now (feel sorry for me? don't think so...), so the rest of the weekend will be reported on later. (But yes, there was "the" cake -- not the same as "the" bread, since my mother makes it!).

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What we've been doing on our Halifax vacation...

Hello folks!

OK, yes, the rumours are true -- although it's probably the worst-kept secret in showbiz. The Brights are, indeed, well on their way to being The Brights for real and for true -- we are now officially engaged. :-)

In fact, the worst-kept secret kind of made itself made by being the worst-kept secret. At dinner with my family, Don let it slip we were trying to figure out where to get married. Ears were perked, champagne was poured, all was good. :-) So, the following morning, we broke it to the kidlets. Wyatt, of course, could have cared less... Lilly immediately shut the door to the hallway and started practising walking in a straight line with a bouquet full of flowers. So we might not know where or when or whatever... but apparently our flower girl is sorted out. ;-)

So... other than that... my Ontario cousin, Chris, was in Hali on business, so we had a grand family dinner at Tarah and Daniel's on Monday night! Funny how we have to go to a different province to see each other, aiyaiyai! But we had a great visit, and... ooh, perhaps a few too many bottles of wine between us all. Hey, it was the beginning of our time off, with family we love -- what the heck?

Tuesday morning, I took my nephew Wyatt to kindermusik. While he absolutely adores music (and has a great sense of rhythm), the greatest draw for him was the mosque being built next door! This boy is definitely going to be a crane operator when he grows up. Although he was equally as fascinated with the garbage pick-up on the way home: "someday, Wyatt ride on garbage truck!!!" Tuesdays are usually Wyatt's "special days" with Grammie -- this week, it was special day with Auntie Lyssy, and we made the most of it. :-)

After a fun day with my nephew, we headed west to Lunenburg, to visit with our friends Bob and Julia. We headed to the Tin Fish restaurant for dinner -- lovely food! -- where their friend Paul was playing, with his wife Eilidh and daughter were also visiting. A lovely evening. We stayed at Bob & Julia's beautiful house overlooking the sea, and stayed up into the wee hours catching up on everything. In the not-so-wee hours the next day, we headed back into Hali, through the drizzle and fog.

Wednesday night, we were on our own, and headed down to Quinpool to have dinner at the FANTASTIC "It's All Greek to Me". Cheezy name, yes, but the food and the service are INCREDIBLE!!! (It was all we could do to not sneak back there tonight.) Yes, I like food and wine. Yes, this is an amazing restaurant. Trust me. Go. :-)

Thursdays are usually Lilly's special days with Grammie -- which means I got her this week. She woke us up very gently this morning (she could teach grammie a few lessons in this department -- oops! did I use my outside voice?!?), with a whisper and a snuggle, and then she went to get Grammie to bring us coffee. I have obviously trained this child well!!!

Once coffee was administered, it was down to the kitchen to paint some ornaments for the Solstice tree. It's a running gag that there are to be no holiday decorations put up until after Sunday (my birthday), so she waxed eloquent on all the stores that have ignored the rule, plus the fact that her parents have put up a wreath already. It's fun that she's at the age where teasing is possible.

Her mom and dad were out looking at prospective schools for her for next year -- yikes, is she that old already?!? Her favourite so far is the Shambhala school, where they put on shows. Yup, my niece the showgirl, who'd-a thunk? (They also have a teeter-totter, which came a close second!)

Then it was a late visit to the bookstore (who can resist?), and dinner around the corner. It's now 10pm and we feel like it's 3am -- is that all the time with the kids, or are we finally feeling the effects of the champagne from the other day? Probably both...

Well, we're off to early slumber-land. Yes, believe it or not... Tomorrow is our final Nova Scotia show at Brookside Cottage -- so we'll need our beauty sleep. :-)

Thanks, as always, for reading,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Belatedly blogging about Sunday

Hello folks and folkettes,

We've been away from the computer for a couple of days (gasp, sputter... yes, really!), so we're very sorry to have not reported on our Halifax CD Release concert yet! (I'm sure 0.2% of you felt your lives were incomplete, right?)

We had a great time, and MaryAnn has created a great space at The Company House -- not to mention, the walls are painted my favourite colour! (Uh, red, for those of you who haven't noticed...) Our friend David Francey had already been singing its praises -- he sure wasn't wrong! MaryAnn and her staff are very welcoming, and helped get us settled and set up. And she has one heck of a sound person in Dexter -- we were SOOO impressed with him! He creates the neatest stage I've ever seen (not easy, with the two of us and our gazillions of instruments), and brought the sounds up really quickly. Not to mention the cello actually sounded like a cello (let me tell you, that's depressingly rare!), we could hear ourselves and each other perfectly, and the volume levels were actually human.

We got a little nervous at 2:55, when there were only three other people in the bar for our 3:00 show, but... as my brother-in-law Daniel says, Haligonians seem to work on "island time", so by 3:10, the place was much more full (phew!). I have to say, it's probably the largest number of minors that have ever been in this bar -- Lilly and Wyatt came, of course, but many of Tarah & Daniel's friends also brought their kids. They all did very well, especially as we neared their dinner time -- no meltdowns that we heard, but we did hear a very enthusiastic "YAY!!!" from young Max after every song. We need Max at every show, it does wonders for the ego.

The grown-ups did very well, too. :-) We saw Michael Loveridge for the first time since we played Mersey House about two years ago -- looking mighty fine, too! Plus a bunch of folks who we'd met on our April tour, and a few complete newcomers -- we're not positive where some of them heard of us, but it's great that (good) word is spreading. Word of mouth is always the best publicity, bar none, and we very much appreciate all the recommendations people give us.

And, of course, the obligatory food and beverage report... We headed back to Tarah & Daniel's after the concert for dinner with the kids. Some very yummy chili, washed down with red plonk-in-a-box.

That's it for now! We'll report back on what we've been doing on the intervening days off shortly. Hope you're all having a great Wednesday.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Singing for our supper -- and actually getting supper this time!

Hi folks!

[Bits of this are being copied from my "Adventures in Cello Land" blog -- apologies to those who read both!]

Thisafternoon, Don and I paid a return visit to "Sing For Your Supper", a songwriters circle led every Saturday by our friend (and amazing songwriter) Kev Corbett at The Carleton in Halifax. We got to do some of our solo stuff, which is rare these days, although we did cheat a bit and accompany each other from time to time. The other guest artists were Jadea Kelly and surprise guest David Borins (who is touring with Jadea).

It was a fun afternoon, and there was a larger audience there than we'd had the last time we played the series. We made some new friends, and made a new connection that might prove profitable in the long run... (not saying it out loud yet, I don't want to jinx myself!)

Kev gave us a copy of his yet-to-be-released CD, Son of a Rudderless Boat, which I'm really looking forward to hearing. Jadea and David also gave us their CDs, so we'll have some pleasant listening material on the road, for sure! This was the first time I had heard either of them, and it was a treat. Although David did a song about disliking women who drink whiskey... he promised me it was just a song. :-) I countered, of course, with Not Enough Whiskey -- dodge, parry, thrust!

Unlike last time, we actually got to stay for dinner -- The Carleton has great food, let me tell you! Don had the ribs in... some sort of brandied BBQ sauce. I had curried penne with shrimps and scallops, mmm-mmm, and a nice Australian Merlot whose name I've already forgotten. Hopefully Kev will invite us back a third time, so we can sample more of the menu. :-)

Actually, we might be heading back next Monday, if we aren't busy visiting family -- David Myles is playing that night. We saw him at Shelter Valley this summer, and would love to see a full night of him!

Well, I'm off to tuck my niece into bed. Hope everyone's having a great weekend!

Just in case we haven't hammered it home -- our Halifax CD release is tomorrow afternoon at The Company House. We'd love to see you there!!! 3:00 pm, and a mere $6 -- that works out to less than a dollar per instrument you see on stage!!! :-)

Hope to see you there,

Friday, November 20, 2009

A grand evening at the Rose & Kettle

Hi folks!

Well, last night at the Rose & Kettle Concert Sessions was tons o' fun -- what a great evening!

It was a bit of an adventure getting there... MapQuest said the drive would be about 20 minutes, so we left about an hour and a half before our "sound check" time, with the plan that we'd stop somewhere in Cole Harbour for a quick bite before the show. Well... MapQuest doesn't quite understand how tricky it is to get across the MacDonald Bridge in late afternoon! I think we spent about 45 minutes just driving the three or so blocks TO the bridge... aiyaiyai, we poor Orillians aren't used to rush hour anymore. :-) But we finally made it on to the highway and off at the proper exit, with just enough time to dash into a Tim's for a take-out sandwich -- so much for a leisurely nibble. After driving a few more minutes, we hit a dead end and water -- oy! We had, somehow, turned ourselves around the wrong way on Portland, and had to double back to get to the right spot. We finally got there, only a few minutes past our original plan, to find the crew getting set up.

The Rose & Kettle Tearoom is part of an old farmhouse in the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum -- a little gem hidden amongst the malls and hustle of the city. Beautiful old wood structure, antique teacups lining the walls, work by local artisans for sale, and some delicious-looking baked goods! (There I go, talking about food again...) Vince Morash hosts these concerts, under the auspices of the Harbour Folk Society, every Thursday night (minus the summertime). Wearing my OFS hat, I couldn't help but be a teensy bit jealous that they can present concerts every week -- imagine how many more great acts I could bring in! Ah, sigh...

Vince is a fabulous host! We are, as you know, rather loathe to toot our own horn, but he was constantly reminding the audience about our CDs for sale, our mailing list, AND our CD Release Concert at The Company House on Sunday, AND our individual appearances at "Sing For Your Supper" at The Carleton on Saturday. We didn't have to do any "tooting" whatsoever!

It's a tremendously supportive audience, too. We knew it would be a good night when George walked in, bought a CD and had us autograph it before we'd played a note! (Fortunately, he didn't ask for his money back after the show...) Very friendly and welcoming people -- we had a chance to chat with a few folks ahead of time (as we scarfed down our aforementioned fast food and tried to put a set list together -- which we later ignored, of course), and chatted with a bunch more -- many of them musicians and songwriters, themselves -- at intermission and afterwards. (Vince and his partner Pixie said they enjoyed presenting these concerts because they always got home before 10pm -- I think last night was an exception, though, unless they live next door!)

It was such a positive night, we left with big smiles on our faces and a few new friends. This is why we love these nights SOOO much better than the battling-with-the-cappucino-machine gigs. Call me Pollyanna, but it feels so good to share yourself with a community and know that they got something nice out of it. That's what it's all about!

On our way back in to Halifax (which took a lot less time than getting out, I can tell you!), we had a brief chat with our cat- and house-sitter extraordinaire, Bernie. Apparently, she likes food stories too, because she had one to share as well! She saw a coveted jar of Arnie's Latvian Dills (made by our friend Arnie Ivsins, A.D. of the Barrie Folk Society), and thought we wouldn't mind if she swiped one. Sadly, a macho firefighter had closed the lid, and she couldn't open the darned thing -- so close, and yet so far! I have now told her where she can find the jar opener (front of the cutlery drawer, to the left of the fridge, Bernie!), so hopefully there will be some missing pickles by the time we come back. :-)

And no tour posting would be complete without a food and beverage story of our own. So... after we dropped off the instruments in Mom's living room, we walked down the road to Quinpool and headed in to Freeman's pub -- which apparently serves food until 5am, oh happy day! Don had a yummy-looking penne with chicken and broccoli in a light cream sauce with a side salad (his first vegetable in a few days, aiyaiyai!). I wasn't quite so hungry, so opted for the mozzarella sticks (one of my filthy addictions, especially after a performance!) and stole a piece of his garlic bread. We both tried the Propeller Porter -- a local brewery, and the porter was really good! So good, we grabbed a second -- which the waitress forgot to charge us for, and was very thankful when we pointed out her mistake. So there ya go, we were good citizens. :-)

Now Don has headed out to buy himself a new hat, and I'm waiting for a conference call. After that, we'll be heading around the corner to wake up Lilly and Wyatt from their naps, spend the afternoon playing, and then have a nice dinner with their parents -- the first time we'll actually see Tarah and Daniel since arriving in Nova Scotia!

Hope you're all enjoying this beautiful Friday.

Alyssa & Don

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The tour has begun...

Hi folks!

We're already on day 3 of our tour, and finally getting down to this business of blogging, after a couple of not-so-subtle requests. :-)

The GREAT news is that Don's back medication worked very well, and the driving was not so bad at all -- which was especially important on day 1, when we had to put over 12-1/2 hours on the road. Thank Dog for whoever had the good sense to invent anti-inflammatories!

So yes, day one was just driving... driving... driving... We didn't encounter any moose or deer at their various crossing signs, although there was a wayward donkey catching a snack in a ditch east of Quebec City. Spent the night in Cabano with a nice bottle of red we snagged from the depanneur earlier that evening -- oh yes, it's like April all over again, except I forgot to make a note of what kind it was... Italian, I know, and quite good, considering we got it at the same place we filled up the car and Don bought fruit squirts (they had no wine gums -- how's a man supposed to tour?!?).

That left us with only five hours we had to drive yesterday, before our gig in Sackville, NB. A nice coffee house (avec biere) called the Bridge Street Cafe. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a now-laminated poster of Taylor Mitchell, for the gig she played there just a few weeks ago... We counted our blessings and tried not to let it get to us.

Unfortunately, OUR posters had still not arrived (curse you, Canada Post -- three business days, my arse!!!), so there were many patrons who were (pleasantly, we hope) surprised that there was music happening that night, and we found ourselves explaining to many people who the heck we were.

The staff at the Bridge Street Cafe are all very nice, and quite supportive and enthusiastic. A nice crew, although they could, perhaps, have run the cappucino machine at some more opportune moments than, say, the beginning of our quiet instrumental After (like, I dunno... AFTER!).

Here, we also found ourselves part of a young student's term paper, which was kind of interesting. He's doing a double major in music and psychology, and is writing about sound in urban spaces. This was phase one of his project, where he records some typical sounds in various places -- a cafe, library, and... I forget the others. The next stage, he's going to mix things up a little, and introduce atypical sounds into the same places -- he's also going to write a composition that brings everything together in the end. Very cool, and we had an interesting conversation with him about music and sound and stuff.

We also met Edward, who seems to be Sackville's number one music fan -- I think he spends a lot of time listening to live music, and apparently plays a bit too. We ate dinner with him on our break (FABULOUS food at this cafe!!!), and talked about many musical things. Our friend David Francey is playing in Sackville tonight, so we told Edward (and anyone else who stood still long enough) to go check him out -- any Sackvillians reading this post should get their cute fannies out the door too! Sackville United Church, David Francey -- go, you won't regret it! :-)

After the show, we headed back on the highway for the final two-hour drive to Halifax -- avoiding aforementioned deer and moose, which is good, because Edward was very concerned about our safety along that stretch, which was making me very nervous! Got in to a very dozy Mom, who said hello and then went right back up to bed, leaving us alone with the plonk-in-a-box. (silly woman...)

This morning, we were wakened by the lovely Lilly, my four-year-old niece, and she and I spent the morning baking sugar cookies. Can't get any better than that...

Don's now tapping his toes to get me out the door in time to grab a sandwich before our show tonight, so I'd better vamoose (how the heck do you spell that?). Tonight we're playing for the HarbourFolk Society at the Rose & Kettle Concert Sessions in Cole Harbour. Don met some of these folks when he was out this way recording our friend Bob Ardern this summer, but I'm looking forward to meeting them myself. It sounds like a great venue, too. And did I mention they have baked goods? :-)

OK, I'll stop talking about food and wine, but just for a little while... (We're staying at Mom's house tonight, so it'll just be plonk-in-a-box, anyhow!)

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We just had a fabulous weekend at the Barrie Folk Festival. Don and I both performed (both as solo acts and me with the now-defunct The Als) in the first BarrieFolk, and it's hard to believe this was already the fifth!

Since the very beginning, the organizers have been... well, just that -- incredibly well-organized. They've got a great team on board, and they sure treat their artists well.

Other than the tasty food and drink, I'd have to say our biggest highlight -- by far -- was our workshop in the Last Class pub with The Good Lovelies and Sheesham & Lotus. We'd seen them both perform before, and Don had met the Lovelies when we were at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival this summer (imagine that, Don chatting up pretty young women! :-) ), but this was the first time we got to play together -- what fun! Both acts did some kick-ass concerts later in the evening, too. If you're not familiar with them, go Go GO!!! They're amazing.

We'll try to do a better job at this here blogging thing -- I know, famous last words. But we'll try. :-)