Sunday, December 6, 2009

Home, sweet home!

I'm sitting here at the kitchen table -- the same one that has made it into many songs, and even The Brights' CD cover -- with a beam of sunlight reaching across the room, one purring orange cat at my feet, one little grey cat announcing she's caught me a "mousie" (at least I hope it's her toy one...). We woke up to snow on the ground -- thank you, mother nature, for waiting until we got home! Little enough to be a shovel-job -- might even be enjoyable (did I just use my outside voice?!?).

We got home last night to two very happy cats who have not left us alone since. Our cat-sitting angel, Bernie, had organized the mail for us, we're pretty sure she cleaned the cat litter earlier in the day (wow! above and beyond, girl!), there was an obvious lack of hairballs around the house, and I think even the plants had been treated more kindly than they're used to. What a nice place to come home to! There was even a bouquet of flowers from our friends Paul and Deb, congratulating us on our engagement, a birthday message from Uncle Tim and Aunt Sherry on the answering machine, a nice note from Laura Bird who stayed here while we were away and she was playing FridayFolk, cards from our dear friend Ali... Geez, we should go away more often!!! (Not happening any time soon -- I'm going to have to force myself to get out of the house to get some grocery shopping done today!)

Looks like we racked up 4436 kilometres this trip. Time for another oil change! And, seeing all this white stuff outside our window, I guess it's time for us to get all the pre-winter preparations done. ;-) Better late than never, right? Unpacking, laundry, finances... the final tour tear-down ritual. Haven't figured out yet whether this tour was financially successful, but it certainly was a success in every other way. Our shows were always greeted with much enthusiasm, we met some really wonderful new people, got to see some old friends... definitely a worthwhile endeavour.

The Brights will be... well, a little dimmer over the next few weeks. :-) (No comments from the cheap seats!) We'll be hunkering down, planning the next tour (out west in late spring), and otherwise enjoying a fairly quiet December. Ahhh... I'll be criss-crossing the country in January -- from leading a "finding your authentic voice" workshop at an Integral Leadership Practice Retreat for Women in Nova Scotia, to performances of Sarah's Daughters (Jeff Nisker's play about a woman whose family is battling a genetic form a breast cancer) with actress Martha Zimmerman in Victoria, BC. -- plus I'm starting to get "the itch" for a new solo CD, so there might be more activity at my Adventures in Cello-Land blog in the near future.

But don't worry -- we'll definitely be staying in touch here if anything exciting happens! And if you really can't get enough information about The Brights, feel free to follow the minutiae of our musical lives at our Twitter feed (yes, we're geeks, get over it!).

From my beautiful sunny kitchen in my home-sweet-home (and still in my jammies and fuzzy slippers and NOT in a car!), this is Alyssa Wright signing off.

'Til I blog again,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homeward bound

Hi folks,

We just crossed the highway back into Ontari-ari-ari-o. Yippeee! It's been a great trip, but we're definitely looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight, and getting back into the old routine (whatever that is...)

Our Church Street Concert last night was much fun (it's apparently no longer called the Church Street Cafe, since they stopped having food at their concerts).

We arrived at Janice & David's home, just outside of Lennoxville, in the early afternoon. Janice had been kind enough to leave us a delicious stew for lunch, which was quite unexpected. :-) We had a nice visit with Dave, and then helped him load up his sound equipment -- Janice and Dave run this concert series pretty much single-handedly, which is an incredible amount of work, as I know all too well. We followed him to the hall in Lennoxville and helped unload.

While Dave got his sound and recording equipment set up (he does live recording of all the Church Street shows), we went to visit Janice at her book store down the road, Black Cat. What a great store!!! All that was missing was a cat. :-) She's got a combination of new releases at the front and used books at the back. It would have been very easy to spend the entire day there, but I managed to get out of there with one book each for my niece and nephew, and one for me (even though I haven't finished reading the one I bought in Halifax -- naughty me!).

Don finally found the new Rose Cousins album, "The Send Off", which he'd tried to find in Halifax but they were all sold out. We've been listening to it on the ride home today. It took us aback a bit at first, because it's so different from her first one -- but now we're on the 5th go-round (yes, really -- why do you think I keep saying Don would leave me for Rose Cousins in an instant?!?), and it's sinking in nicely. Quite brave of her, I think, to take such a departure from what worked so well on her first. Beautiful songs, as always, plus a "cover" of a Mary Margaret O'Hara tune that pushes her in directions we haven't heard her do before -- and are excited to hear her do now. She's got such a strong voice, it's nice to hear her sing in an... almost cabaret style, really. She's got the pipes!

But, ahem, back to us. ;-)

Back to the hall to do our sound-check. Dave usually just sets up two omni mics on stage, but the cello proved a wee bit overpowering for that approach -- so we had to do a bit of fiddling around, so it wasn't all me all the time. That hall has great acoustics, so not much was needed -- I think the main balance was for the recording.

Then we were off to CJMQ for a quick interview with Dave Teasdale. He'd definitely done his research, and it was fun to chat with him about our music, the tour, the album, and life in general.

A wee bite at the neighbourhood pizzeria hit the spot -- although didn't seem that wee a bite, once we were finished. Note to self -- split an order before a show. :-) Then back to the hall.

The Church Street Concerts have been having troubles keeping the numbers up over the past year or so, but it seemed a fair-sized audience. And certainly an enthusiastic and supportive one! Apparently, all the local cellists were there, and we had somehow managed to attract a bunch of the Bishop's students, who don't often come out to these shows. Yup, we attracted the young 'uns! (No mosh pit this time, though...)

We knew it was going to be a good night after we finished our first song, "A Good Day", and heard a loud "Whoop!" from the back of the hall -- and no, we didn't kidnap little Max and make him follow us around to all our concerts, this was a grown up. :-) There were similar reactions all the night through -- does an ego good!

At intermission, I found myself surrounded by the Lennoxville cellists (good band name, no?), asking about the carbon fibre cello, my foot percussion, etc., plus a young boy who liked my blue cello but wondered why there wasn't any food. Sigh... you can't keep everybody happy (a good control of the ego!). One of them even bought Don an apple cider -- geez, what is it with Don and female cellists? ;-)

The second set went just as well, and we even got a standing ovation and encore at the end. A great way to end our tour, I'd say!

Our final tear-down, and then back to Janice & Dave's where we were treated to late-night pizza and beverages. After saying "Not Enough Whiskey" was one of her favourites, Janice then offered up the single malt -- it would have been rude to say no, right?

This morning, we were treated to delicious blueberry pancakes and "Lyssy coffee" -- the really strong stuff. :-) We had a lovely lazy morning, and didn't really want to leave, but... the call of our very own bed tore us away at last.

Driving up highway 55 towards Montreal, we saw a sight that Wyatt would have loved -- Hot Air Balloons!!! If only we'd had the camera ready...

And here we are on the 401, halfway between Cornwall and the Ottawa turn-off. A perfect day for driving. But Don's been doing it all since we left Lennoxville, so I think it's my turn now. I imagine my next post will be from... you guessed it... HOME!!!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Here comes the sun... doo-be-doo-dooo!

Hi folks,

Friday morning, and we're driving to our last gig of the tour -- under MUCH nicer conditions than yesterday, lemme tell ya!

Almost as soon as we checked in, Don had a nice 2-hour nap at the motel. Fell asleep with his coat still on, no less, so finally woke up because he was too hot. :-) The idea of driving even to the ferry filled us with blech, so we opted instead to walk all the way next door to the Normandin. We had a nice waitress who giggled with us as we tried to remember our French, and then giggled as she tried to remember her English.

Considering that Normandin is basically a 24-hour truck stop, we were both pleasantly surprised with the quality of our meal. I had salmon on a bed of egg noodles and covered with a bruchetta-like topping. Don had ribs, and I managed to eat half his fries. I don't know why I was so hungry -- other than the stress of the drive, I guess. I thought I had ordered us a bottle of wine, but she brought us a full litre (hic!) carafe -- so it's a really good thing there were only 30 steps to our motel room. And yes, I was so hungry that we actually ordered dessert -- a rarity for us -- AND I finished all mine, plus a bite of Don's. And then Don got brave and ordered us "deux cafes Espagnol", just to make sure we slept well. Je suis si fier...

And here we are, on Autoroute 20, with sun and lovely blue skies peeking through the clouds at us. I almost need my sunglasses! It's making me smile. Ah, the simple things... Kind of like my nephew Wyatt the other day -- that kid grins at pretty much anything. We'd read some of my old Richard Scarry "Things That Go", and he became enamoured with the idea of a hot air balloon. Found a strawberry crate in the basement, declared it the basket for his hot air balloon, and played with it ALL DAY, excitedly crying "hot air balloon!!" about every five minutes. I think I'm there with the sunshine today. Sunshine!!! Sunshine!!!

Or -- and/or -- maybe it's just that I can feel us getting closer to home. Tomorrow night, I'll be sleeping in my own bed. Once again, I find myself encompassing two extremes -- the gypsy wanderer and the homebody missing her place. Balance, for me, never seems to end up being sitting comfortably in the middle. I think I'd be bored that way. Nope, it's the ever-moving teeter-totter of life that keeps me going. You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone... and then you really appreciate it when you get it back! We've got a few weeks of quiet when we get back. But I know I'm gonna fill it. After I watch the three weeks worth of my cheesy TV shows that I've taped. :-)

Ah, but here we are on the road, me and my one sweet constant -- who I don't seem to get bored of at all, what's with that? ;-) Enjoying the beauty of the day, and now needing to find the sunglasses that have been hidden at the bottom of my purse for days. Life is good. I'm already home, really.

Tonight, the Church Street Cafe in Lennoxville, QC. We're really looking forward to this one -- Don played there solo a number of years ago, but it's my first time there. Radio interview at 5pm, the rest of the day can be nice and relaxed. Did I mention life was good?


Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's OK Mom, we made it!

Writing from the EconoLodge in Levis (using their complimentary wireless so as not to rack up any more charges on our internet stick), where we've stopped for the night.

Added bonus -- with the time change between New Brunswick and Quebec, we gained an hour, and it's only 6:30!

We had great visions of taking the ferry across to Old Quebec for a romantic dinner, but... I can hear my sweetie softly snoring on the bed behind me, so it might just be the next-door Normandin and a bottle of plonk from the depanneur -- will give the full food and beverage report later, if I don't start snoring too...

In the meantime, I've spent far too long staring at this screen, so I shall sign off for now. But we're here, we're alive, we have only 3 hours to drive tomorrow and it's 11 degrees there. May it stay that way!

In relief,

Whether 'tis nobler... be driving behind the snow ploughs or in front of them? We've done each at various points today, and I'm hard-pressed to come up with an answer.

We had a lovely stretch of relief from the storms in western New Brunswick, but then the snow came back around Edmundston. Good thing we'd stopped for gas in Campbellton, too! Around Cabano, we realized we weren't going to make it to Quebec City for early dinner, so stopped for a late lunch, instead. By the time we get to Quebec City, we'll probably be nice and fashionably late.

So once again, we're in picture-perfect country, despite the quickly-fading light. More trees pregnant with snow, dark grey fog swimming in and out of the patches of snowflakes... We're about to get to Riviere-du-Loup, which means we'll be getting two lanes in each direction again. Of course, that also means we'll be getting a lot more transport trucks...

So, rather than entertain Don with my interpretive dance version of the Blair Witch Project, I think it's time to tell you all about the gorgeous moon we saw last night!

It was a full moon, of course, and quite the beauty. Just as we were driving across the Miramichi, we saw it starting to come up over the water, big and bright fiery orange, casting a warm glow over the then faintly-dusted-with-snow countryside. I wish the camera had been in a place we could reach... but it probably wouldn't have done justice to the scene. Magical!

We're back to rain, and fairly light rain, at that. But it gets so dark so early! We're going to head to Levis and then call it a day -- that'll make tomorrow an easy drive, and maybe we'll find a depanneur with a nice bottle of plonk. I think we've earned it today!!!

Thanks, again, for distracting me. :-)

Between a truck and a hard place...

Thank goodness we didn't take the logging road! And thank Dog we got the snow tires on.

There is coffee in Campbellton, and a very nice gas jockey at the Ultramar. I chastised myself for being bad and getting an apple fritter, but now I consider it a just reward -- I think my body is probably processing calories double-time, as we drive (well, Don drives...) through the Appalachians in alternating snow (snowballs, not snowflakes) and freezing rain, with one transport truck in front and one behind. Let's hope Mom doesn't read these blogs, for sure!

Around us, everything is picture-postcard beautiful. Evergreens hunched under blankets of snow. The ocean view now giving way to beautiful mountain vistas. The faint whisper of Alyssa hollering "slow down, we're all gonna die!!!"... The half a plastic Santa "caught" in the garage door, as if to hammer that thought home... Keeping our eyes peeled for Moose, with not many options if we do spot one... Oh yeah, that apple fritter was definitely justified. I may even have to order myself a plate of poutine once we hit the border -- heart-attack, schmart-attack. ;-)

The houses around here are all quite small and don't look like they'd survive the winds we're feeling -- don't think it's the richest part of the province along this highway -- but they're all cheerily painted and lovingly cared-for, and lots of big snow-encrusted Newfs and other large pups guarding the fort. The kids around here must have gotten a snow day, because we've been waved at by many cheery tykes. Why is it only grown-ups complain about this weather? Ah yes, the driving and "we're all gonna die" thoughts... (Mom, you should have stopped reading a long time ago...)

Hmmm... perhaps I should have called this blog entry "what goes up must come down", because after making our way up the mountain for half an hour, it looks like we're starting down. Let's hope that truck behind us has good snow tires!

Or maybe it should be "here comes the rain again", because here we are back into rainstorm. The roads snowless enough to make you cocky, until aforementioned large ruminant decides to skip across the highway... Maybe I should have gotten two apple fritters.

But thank goodness we didn't take the logging road... and thank Dog for snow tires.

And we're listening to our newest-favourite CD by Kev Corbett, "Son of a Rudderless Boat". "Driving Song" just came on... how apropos! "This single-lane roads and double-lane trucks... But don't worry hon, I ain't gonna die... without seeing your face" :-)

OK darlings, we're into plain rain now. Looking warmer now. "Hallelujah! See? I didn't die..."

Thanks for helping distract me.

Yes mom, I'll let you know when we hit Highway 2. ;-)


More surprises

Hi folks!

Well, we're in the middle of our first winter storm, in northern New Brunswick. When we left Clifton this morning, it was just a little drizzly. We've driven through freezing rain, rain, hail, and now snow. Not pleasant. We keep driving by people stopped on the other side of the road -- not sure why it's so much worse coming the other way! Apparently, Quebec city is 11 degrees and raining -- so if we can make it through New Brunswick, it all should get better.

Fortunately, our hosts gave us better directions than MapQuest, otherwise we would have been in for even MORE of a surprise! Apparently, the "highway" those digital genii were going to send us on is actually a logging road, and our suspension would have been toast. Thank goodness for real people. :-)

But... backtrack to the first surprise from yesterday. Seems like even total strangers read my warbling from time to time. :-) I got a lovely note from one of the owners of the Brooklyn Warehouse, thanking me for my comments about the restaurant. Who knew? (Guess this means I should be more careful when complaining about Mom's pot roast, too -- you never know who's paying attention!)

The other surprise happened when I discovered that a friend I'd met from my Cannington days was now living just outside of Bathurst, NB. Kathryn was the minister at Wilfrid United Church, where I replaced the music director for a couple of summers, and now she's got a new charge in Clifton, NB. I suggested we pop in for a quick visit, and she invited us to spend the night, and give a wee concert to her choir, who was meeting for rehearsal that evening. Kathryn's husband Roger made us a delicious curry dinner, and we had a very nice visit before she headed over to choir practise. Practically the entire choir came back to the manse afterwards, and we did a little house concert. I think we've got them hooked -- Kathryn was making plans. ;-)

This morning, we had a quick breakfast (we were offered something fancier, but breakfast and I don't get along very well when we're in a hurry, and we wanted to try and avoid the worst of the storm), then got a nice tour of Kathryn's church before we headed off to brave the elements.

And now hear we are, about to make a pit stop in Campellton for a much-needed coffee. Yup, back to the food and beverage report! :-)


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The birthday weekend

[Copied verbatim from Alyssa's blog -- apologies to those who read both!]

Hi folks,

Our final day in Halifax -- we'll be heading to Clifton, NB tomorrow evening for a visit with some of my friends from the old Cannington days, plus surprise last-minute mini-house-concert. Then Lennoxville Friday and... presumably, home!

Just waiting for the laundry to finish up before heading to the last play-time with Lilly and Wyatt (boo hoo). But thought I'd catch you up on the birthday weekend while I waited.

Saturday afternoon, we visited Don's cousins in Dartmouth -- they're such a fabulous family. They were very happy about the engagement, and I don't think Becky stopped smiling once! Becky has also convinced me (very little arm-twisting necessary!) to come to her Open Field Retreat in January and do a workshop in finding your authentic voice -- I can't wait! It was an all-too-short visit with Becky & Jim, Hugh & Chris and Lois, plus a phone call from Deb in Salt Lake City. But it was lots of fun, and we'll be seeing them again soon, I'm sure.

In the evening, Don took me out for my Birthday Eve dinner, just up the road at The Brooklyn Warehouse -- our favourite in the area. Apparently, it's become many others' favourite too, because we had to wait a little bit for a table, and it was quite busy for most of our dinner. Oh well, we enjoyed some fancy cocktails at the bar, so all was well! :-) We shared an appetizer of to-die-for hummus and pita. Main course was steak for Don (he always has the steak there), and a vegan angel hair "carbonara" for me, with smoked tofu -- never had it before, but I'll be keeping an eye out, because it's amazing (Don the tofu-hater even liked it!). Washed down, of course, with a lovely French Pinot Noir. Remembering the last time we ate there -- and the painful waddle home -- we opted to skip dessert this time, but had some Monte Christo coffees instead. Mmm-mmm!

Sunday morning, we got up early (musicians' early, anyhow) for the weekly Breakfast Club breakkie at Athens -- I think there were about 14 of us there this week. Then, in honour of my birthday, I had a two hour nap. :-)

And then the "surprise" party (not really a surprise, since Lilly had broken the news several weeks ago, and had talked about it almost every day we were here) at Mom's house. Lilly still yelled "surprise" with great gusto, though!!! She had made me a card that wished me Merry Christmas (a running joke, since nobody is "allowed" to decorate or sing Christmas carols until after my birthday in this family -- which means she's been singing carols at the top of her voice since I arrived!), plus a very colourful play-clay sculpture of somebody swimming in the swimming pool. Her parents gave me a great wine diary and a bottle of Rioja Gran Riserva to start me off. Funny, friends Sheila and Hugh also brought me wine -- a local brew which looks lovely too. Mom opted for the non-alcoholic present, giving me a lovely wood-block serving tray with sailboats, some lovely "live love laugh" magnets, and a CD from her recent trip to Newfoundland.

Food and beverages? Well... this is where it gets interesting. Pot Roast. Yes, pot roast was the main course served at my birthday. For those of you who don't know, I am a vegetarian and have been one for about two decades. Who would serve pot roast at a vegetarian's birthday party? Yup, my mother. This explains so much on so many levels, doesn't it? ;-)

But she redeemed herself with the traditional Wright-family birthday cake -- angel food with chocolate drizzles. Don is a convert. We ate the final slices of leftovers for breakfast this morning. :-)

Ah... and perfect timing. The laundry just finished, and I have to dash over to play with my niece and nephew. Life is rough...