Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in the 'Hood

You know Christmas has arrived in the 'hood when Santa is spotted ordering fries from the Maymo's Fry wagon.  I would think that delivering toys all over the world requires some extra calories.

Michelle at Mitch's Treasures has worked her usual Christmas magic on her store window

For the 15th year in a row,  Victor Bax Custom Tailoring on Adelaide Street has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  Since Victor retired, the business has been run by Victor's brother Enrico, and the charming display is a result of Enrico's ex-wife's 20 years of collecting the tiny houses.

Regular customers look forward to the annual display, which is set up in November.  There's also a Christmas tree decorated with Santa Claus ornaments.

In addition to the houses and other buildings like the firehouse on the bottom left, there are fanciful items like a penguin-occupied igloo, a gingerbread house, and a tree house.

Every free bit of space in the store not taken up by fabric and other tools of the trade is filled with ceramic buildings lit so you can see the people inside. 

I wish my readers a safe and happy Christmas (or holiday of your choice), and want all of you to know how much I have appreciated your support and thoughtful comments on my blog.  It is immensely gratifying to see something that is a true labour of love for me enjoyed by so many people all over the world.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Roller Derby and Rock n' Roll

I hadn't been to a Roller Derby game here in London for several months, so when I found out that my new favourite band was going to be playing the half-time show at a Derby double header on December 13th, of course, I had to be there.  The first game featured the Forest City Derby Guys team, the Pack Men, against Ottawa's Slaughter Squad.  I hadn't seen the men's team play since watching their very first London game almost exactly a year ago.        

They still play pretty rough, but they are definitely tighter as a team, and are relying more on strategy and skating skills than brute strength.  The major improvement I noticed was that there were a lot fewer penalties.  Last year, the "penalty box" was full 80% of the time, so nice going guys!

Of course, that being said, there was still a lot of this....with one of the London team members having to be helped off the track.

The second game of the night featured two teams composed of members of the Forest City Derby Girls. The Original Gangstas featured founding members of the FCDG, some of whom had come out of retirement, or travelled from other cities in order to play that evening, went up against newer members of the league, calling themselves The Young and the Wreckless.    The outfits worn by the two teams reflected the difference between the old school (all black) and the new school (black and white) in women's roller derby.  When I first started attending games several years ago, it was common to see the women play wearing fishnets and booty shorts, which I'm sure was part of the draw for some fans.  Now, the women tend to cover up more during matches, which makes for somewhat more protection against bruises from falls on the track.

Scenes from the track....

Glamarchist, who was playing for the Original Gangstas, sported her trademark lightning bolt 

Heather (or Torquemada on the track) was jamming for the Young and the Wreckless
 In the end, the Original Gangstas triumphed but both teams played well, and it was great to see some of the women who have gone on to play for other leagues (such as Killson, in the thigh-highs and garters on the right) back on home territory.

Populusque Romanus played a half-time set that consisted of Blitzrieg Bop (the Ramones), Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High (Arctic Monkeys), Come As You Are (Nirvana), Kashmir (Led Zeppelin) and Rebel Rebel (David Bowie).  The band had acquired a new member since I last saw them play in Woodstock (Connor, shown here playing bass).

Clockwise from top left:  Grace (vocals and guitar); Queena (guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals), Lucy (drums); and newest band member, Connor (bass, and keyboards)

Connor, who I think is 12, is a great addition to the band and held his own playing a bass that was as tall as he was.

Having Connor in the band frees up Queena to play keyboards for some of the songs

I was not-so-secretly coveting Grace's studded docs

I asked the band to pose for a group photo after their gig and was even able to coax a smile out of everyone.  If you're in London, and get an opportunity to hear this band, you'll be won over by their youthful enthusiasm, impressive talent, and bucket-loads of charm.
You can find a couple of short videos of the band performing on my previous post about them here.

The next roller derby game is January 10th, 2015

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Have a Crafty, Art-filled Christmas

I had planned to get this post up much last week, but other stuff that makes up my so-called real life got in the way, and so here we are, just over a week until Christmas....

Tis the season where many of the local art galleries hold shows featuring works by local artists in a generally affordable price range (say, $200 instead of $2,000) in hopes of enticing people to purchase a gift of art for someone on their Christmas list.  A piece of art is a very personal gift, and usually reserved for the recipient whose taste in such things is very familiar to you.  On Friday, December 5th I stopped by the openings of two such shows, and there was enough variety on offer for there to be something to appeal to everyone.

Sales from CRAFTEDThe ARTS Project's exhibition and sale of unique, handcrafted items,  support the artists and The ARTS Project's programming and events.  The show, which runs until December 18th, has a bit of everything.....

If your living room is too small for a real Christmas tree, Jayne Cornelis' glass one is an option

For the feline fan on your list - a bag decorated with a hand-hooked rug by Simone Vojvodin

Sarah Legault, whose work you have seen in this blog before, contributed a few of her cool/creepy art dolls to the show

Clockwise from top left:  glassware by Angie Quick;  fabric clutch purses from Willow and Poppy Studios; Manly forged steel bottle openers by Scott McKay; fashion illustration painted on silk by Selma Popovic

Tim Cosen's "Apple Tree Blossoms, Sun" (left) and Dorothy Pilot's textile collage would add some glorious colour to a room

This re-imagined Jack-in-the-Box created by Gabrielle Nowicki would appeal more to adults than kids, and she also had some small whimsical collages for sale (which you can see on her website)

So from there, it was on to Strand Fine Art Services for the kick-off party to their annual Christmas Show and Sale, featuring work from approximately 25 Southwestern Ontario artists.   Prices ranged from $8 to $1800, with most pieces in the $100 - $300 range.

I'll start with my favourite pieces in the show - a series titled "stockings" by Agnieszka Foltyn.  The small pieces were approximately 6" X 8" and the large one in the top left was maybe 2' x 3'.  I have included a closeup of the black and white striped stockings with red toes, which I could happily imagine hanging in my apartment.

There were a number of bird-themed pieces in the show: Clockwise from top - "Flock" by Agnieszka Foltyn; an origami canary by Bartek Foltyn (I'm thinking they are related), and a flock of crows made from vinyl records by Fran Whitney.

For people looking for a splash of colour, there were many small-to-medium sized acrylic and oil paintings available.  Top left - "Parc St. Jacques" by Jeremy Price; "Pears" and "Eggs" by Thelma Rosner, and "Farming Flowers-Purple" by Laney Richmond

For those who prefer their art in monochrome, there were works in charcoal by Kevin Bice (left), and "Lace Leaves", a mixed media work by Sharron Corrigan Forrest

Fran Whitney was the most prolific artist represented in the show -  the fish prints, bowls made from vinyl records, and mixed media pins above were all her creations, as were the vinyl crows seen in a previous photo.

Some smaller pieces that I wouldn't mind finding under my Christmas tree - clockwise from top left:  "gentle souls hand crank orchestral balladeers" by Leslie Putnam; "untitled trees" by Bill Stelpstra; "Enso" (acrylic on panel with resin) by Maya Foltyn (whom I assume is related to Bartek and Agnieszka);  pastel "Cats" by Linda Fried

The Christmas Show and Sale at Strand Fine Art Services runs until noon on Tuesday, December 24th, and their December hours are:  Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 6 pm, and Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wasn't That a Party?

This past Saturday night, the owners of From Mars, whom I have known since the mid-1980's, had their annual Christmas party at their store.  Last year they asked Catl, a high-energy blues rock band from Toronto, to play at the party, and the response was so positive that they asked them back again this year.  I asked Heather to go with me and we stopped by the Early Bird beforehand to get a bite to eat.....

I had always wanted to try the "Turducken" sandwich (basically a giant club sandwich with smoked turkey, panko-breaded chicken and duck bacon) but I had to wait until I could split it with someone, and Heather was game.  The verdict?  I could have done with less bread and more of the maple mayo, but the insides were tasty.  We had onion rings on the side, just because.

Fully fortified, we headed a couple of doors down the street to the party.  

While the band was setting up, guest enjoyed snacks and a beverage, and shopped the store's stellar selection of unique clothing and accessories.  The store has become a favourite of many stylish 40+ women in London because of the great selection of funky clothes that look good on a variety of ages and body types, and the fabulous shoes and boots by such brands as Fly, Neosens, and A.S. 98

I have more than a few items from the store in my closet, but decided that I would go vintage for the party.  I'd found this 70's maxi dress at Jackpot Vintage recently (you can't see in this photo, but it has tiny gold metal studs throughout the pattern) and it went perfectly with the metallic-embellished haori I purchased in New York.  I did wear the pair of Neosens ankle boots I'd purchased at From Mars a few years ago.

I've seen this woman at a few different events and as usual, she was beautifully turned out, from her striking hair to her metal-accented boots.

This woman has the same pair of A.S. 98 boots that Heather had purchased last month, and it illustrated the appeal of the store to women of all ages when a pair of boots purchased there look just as cool on a woman in her 60's (I'm guessing) as they do on a woman in her 30's.

My neighbour, Natalie, looking super sassy in a furry chapeau and giant hoops

Catl, formerly a duo, then a trio, now a duo again, consists of Jamie Fleming on vocals and guitar, and Sarah Kirkpatrick on drums and vocals.  They play stripped-down, rip-roaring, booty-shakin' blues rock, and it is impossible to stand still while listening to them play.   While they have four albums under their belt, it's their live shows that have earned them a devoted following.

 Kirkpatrick, whose father was a drummer, started playing drums after the band lost its second drummer sometime in 2013.  She is a dynamo on the skins, and never stops shimmying and shaking.

The party guests enjoy Fleming work some guitar magic

Kirkpatrick wasn't the only one doing some serious hair tossing that night - Laurie, one of the co-owners of From Mars, was definitely getting into the groove.

The energy of Fleming and Kirkpatrick was amazing, and by 10 pm when they called it quits, I'm sure they were exhausted.

You can watch Catl perform their first song of the night in the video I shot below....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

(Wo)Man's Search For Meaning

Regular readers of this blog will note that this post is a rather serious departure from my regular style/arts/culture/thrifting/animals focus, and you may be disappointed it does not contain any photos of interesting people or outfits.   I've learned over the past five years of blogging that when it comes to writing a post, I have to go where my heart is at the time, and this is where it is at the moment...

What makes your life (or anyone's, for that matter ) meaningful?

I have thought about this question often over the course of my adult life, and more so in the last 10 years.  As a single, childless woman, the majority of my time not spent at work is pretty much spent doing things that I enjoy, and are for the most part, all about me.  Lately, I find there is a nagging fear creeping in that I am living this quote by Victor Frankl:

You could ask ten people what makes their lives meaningful, and get 10 different answers, but I think that you would find a common theme in their answers.   In 2013 a study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology that examined whether people thought their lives were meaningful, or happy.  Jennifer Aaker, of Stanford Graduate School of Business, and her colleagues surveyed 397 people over a month, and one of their findings that I found to be most interesting is that happiness is linked to being a "Taker", while meaningfulness is linked to being a "Giver".   

I have always thought my life was more meaningful when I volunteered my time for a non-profit agency.  In the early 1990's I assisted with event coordination and client support for what was then called The AIDS Committee of London, which provided services and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.  It was certainly not one of the happier times in my life - a close friend had recently been diagnosed with HIV, which was pretty much a death sentence in those days; my employment situation and my marriage were both on shaky ground, and almost all the clients whom I spent time with, died.  But at the same time, I felt like what I was doing really mattered, and that as crazy as my life seemed at that time, it had meaning.   I had the same feeling when I volunteered with our local Crisis Hotline a couple of years ago.  In most cases, the people I talked to on the phone during my time there were grateful to have someone to listen to them, even if I couldn't solve their problems.   Unfortunately, after volunteering for a little over a year, some of the more stressful phone calls were starting to negatively affecting my emotional well-being, after much consideration, I made the difficult decision to give up my volunteer position.   

I started to wonder if there would always be a separation between happiness and meaningfulness in my life.    The things I had chosen to do that added meaning to my life seemed to also be things that left me often feeling sad, or emotionally drained.  Surely everything that made one's life meaningful didn't have to also be so stressful?  With this in mind, I've decided to explore another volunteer opportunity, and have completed the training to be a Big Sister.  I haven't been matched with a little sister yet, but I am feeling excited, and nervous about this new adventure, and my hope is that it will turn out to be both meaningful, and enjoyable.   I won't be blogging about my experience, mainly for privacy reasons, but I did think my decision to try this was something worth sharing. 

Have any of you volunteered your time with a non-profit organization?  Did you have a positive experience? What brings meaning to your life?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Eat Local. Listen Local. Shop Local

For most of the last year, the folks who live in my neighbourhood, myself included, had passed by this pink storefront and wondered if the business was ever going to open.  Then this past weekend I noticed that it had, so of course I had to take a look.

the boombox bakeshop is a cute little bakery/cafe whose interior reflects the owner's passion for music.

After years of working in retail, Alexandra Connon decided to combine her love of baking and music into her own business, which has been open for about a month. 

The sign outside pretty much sums up the philosophy behind the business.  Connon had live music in the shop on the Friday night, and plans to host regular music events.  The art displayed in the shop is created by local artists.

The funky music-themed packaging was designed by a local company, Georgette Packaging, the owner of which used to own a cupcake bakery in Northern Ireland.  

The menu board

The "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" cupcake, featuring a french toast-flavoured cake with a streusel and maple icing.

Chocolate fan that I am, I selected a "C is For Cookie" with a chocolate cake base with cookies and cream icing.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of cupcakes, or cake in general.  I don't mind the cake part, if it is freshly baked, but most are covered in too much sickeningly sweet icing.  I am happy to report that this cupcake was very moist, with a pleasant, slightly crispy texture on the top of the cake part, and while there was still more icing than I needed, it was very tasty, and not cloyingly sweet.  If I was craving a sweet dessert, I would go for another one of these, although maybe the double chocolate next time.   I also tried one of the sweet potato and kale popovers, which I warmed up in the toaster oven at home, and it was delicious.

the boombox bakeshop is a very welcome addition to the Old East Village neighbourhood, providing an attractive setting for a coffee and a treat, and an alternative venue for musicians and artists to find an audience for their work.  The bakeshop is open Tuesday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm, and Saturdays 10 am - 4 pm.  You can also find more information on their website.