table for one. a finale.

Thanks to my friends for attending the table for one. CD release “event” on February 20, 2017. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to share the music that I have created with everyone. Special thanks to Shannon Munn for opening Cannon Coffee Co. especially for the event and also to Douglas Steckle for shepherding me to and from the event and helping out. Both of you are amazing!

Thanks also to Cindy Schnaithmann for making the Cannon work as a venue and making the arranging of it so easy, despite the construction the cafe is undergoing this week!

As I came down from last night’s performance, I reflected on the journey that has been the table for one. experience.

Life is a constant evolution. table for one. documents a 7 year period in life where I dealt with my husband’s cancer, his transplant surgery, and then his death, followed by my father’s death one year later and the ensuing nervous break down…the past three years have been of reflection, healing and moving forward…and the songs in the table for one. cycle reflect that.

I realized after performing certain songs that I can no longer go back into the particular headspace and “heartspace” that they represent any further. While they are my creations and I’m proud of them in their own right, sometimes they need to be set free and exist on their own…as a marker of a particular moment in time.

being human. is one such song as is patient. Both have had their chance to be shared and the emotions therein expressed but my heart, mind and spirit are just not in them any more.

I’m happy that these songs can still resonate with people and that they will listen to them and gain strength and whatever joy they from them, however they are not for me any further. These compositions and recording belong to the world at this point. I will protect and guard them, however I will not revisit them as a performer.

I’ve also been able to use the table for one. experience to reflect on the writing for a CD, recording it and releasing it as a single project/object and realized that at this point in my career, it is not a sound artistic and financial prospect.

You may have noticed my Patreon page being mentioned earlier last week. This represents the next step in my career and musician and will focus on the release of musical items as they are created. We shall chat about this at a later date.

That being said, I still have a small stock of CDs left, so if you’d like one, please let me know and we’ll work it out!

Thanks for your continued support and patience!

so yeah, i’ve been quiet…

…because I’ve been really busy!

Those who may have been following either my twitter or facebook feeds are pretty up to date with the news.  However I will give a full “Reader’s Digest” version here.

On September 19th, DH went into the hospital to have a cancerous tumour which was strangling the bile duct between his liver and pancreas removed.  As he is the recipient of a transplant, has significantly altered anatomy and is in a state of chronic immunosuppression to prevent rejection of the transplant organ, the surgery was quite serious.

The surgery that DH had is known as a “Whipple Procedure” and involves removal of the affected bile duct, part of the stomach, part of the pancreas and part of his intestine.  He was expected to remain in the hospital for 10-14 days and then recuperate at home for another two weeks prior to starting a projected six months of chemotherapy.

We went into the hospital at 6am on the morning of September 19th and began the pre-operative procedures.  DH was brought into the operating room at 8am and I and LCA got a chance to talk to the surgeon, who was rather anxiously pacing as he knew and understood the serious nature of this procedure.  We discussed how the surgery would go and, knowing that it would be 9 to 11 hours long, LCA drove me home.

The surgeon made NO bones about the fact that the scans showed the tumour and a lot of other material which could have been scar tissue from the transplant or further cancer.  If it was the latter, he was simply going to stitch DH back up and determine how he could be made comfortable.  As this was the case, I wasn’t able to relax until a good four hours into the surgery, when I finally crashed at home at around noon.

The phone rang at 3:30pm and it was the surgeon, who sounded relieved and confident that it was going well and confirmed that if I could get back into the hospital by 5:30pm, he would chat with me.  Needless to say, I did.

The surgeon came out at around 6pm and confirmed that they got the tumour, that the rest of the findings on the scans were indeed scar tissue and that he took the bulk of that out as well.  He also performed the Whipple Procedure as routinely as possible and that DH did not require any blood transfusions.  I then had about two hours to kill until DH was stabilized and settled in the intensive care unit.

I proceeded to walk the streets of Toronto, calling the appropriate family members and sharing the news.  I also managed to settle my stomach enough to choke down a part of a small Hero Burger for dinner after a long day of eating nothing beyond coffee.  When I made it up to the ICU, DH was awake and waiting for me.  The first words out of his mouth were:  “Did they get it?”

I replied that the surgeon had gotten all of it and he responded with: “Good, I’m going to fight this with all my might now.”

I broke down in tears as I was already fighting this by engaging our friends and family in sending him thoughts, energy, prayers and support.  I was overjoyed and I was also exhausted after a long day.  I went home and sat with the dogs on the back deck under the moonlight, crying tears of joy.

The next day, I visited DH in the ICU and he was already bored and frustrated.  He was still groggy from the anaesthesia, however he needed something to keep him occupied.   Thankfully I had brought his slippers, his iPod, some reading material and some word search books to keep him busy.  As he was still in the ICU, I couldn’t hook up the phone or the TV (as there was neither to be had). 

Due to the nature of the surgery, they had concerns regarding blood pooling in his legs and blood clots forming, so they had him in compression stockings and inflatable “moon boots” that would massage and compress his legs regularly to help the blood flow.  He complained about being uncomfortable and asked what he could do to get out of those boots.  Looking at the nurse, I winked and told him he would have to get up and walk around; the nurse beamed at me for telling him that and went to get the upright walker (a chest high walker that DH could rest his arms on and walk upright with).  After a few tentative steps, we got him in his slippers and down to the end of the nursing station and back.

As I left the ICU that day, the nurse thanked me and asked if I was going to help with DH’s rehabilitation, which I confirmed to the best of my abilities, however noted that I would need a day off here and there to ensure I’m not run down.  She understood and agreed.

The next day, I had a few meetings around home and also wanted to go and thank my support team personally (not to mention it was the Sew Hungry Food Truck Rally on Ottawa Street!), so I held off and went into Toronto that afternoon.  By the way, to my support team and you know who you are – Y’ALL TOTALLY ROCK MY WORLD!  I will give particular mentions in a later posting.

I got to the hospital that afternoon and was notified that DH had been moved to the post-transplant ward for further care.  I got down to his room and saw him ensconced in bed, looking thoroughly bored.  I immediately got the phone and TV set up and showed him how to plug his headset in – he was ecstatic about that.  Later that afternoon, I had DH up and walking again and we went further than the prior day.  The nursing staff was happy with me being there, however the nurse confirmed that I looked tired and would need some rest the next day.  I agreed whole-heartedly!

Thankfully, the Parental Units had agreed to visit DH that Saturday, while I could catch up on chores around home, some sleep and rest as well as go to the farmer’s market with DM2.

On Sunday, JCS and LCA had wanted to visit DH in the hospital, so they drove me in after I finished singing church.  It was particularly nice to have some company en route to and from the hospital.  It was also nice not to have to take the GO Bus in and also be able to bring in DH’s suitcase for him without having to worry about marching it up University Avenue or use the subway!  I always value JCA and LCA’s companionship and their guidance both emotionally and spiritually.  They are a remarkable couple and have also been a great support to DH as they are of the same faith as he.

We had a lovely visit and chat with DH and then went to the World’s Biggest Bookstore to browse and purchase some reading material.  That evening, it was mentioned that as DH was continuing to heal and progress, that he could be released as soon as that upcoming Thursday.  I noted that unless he could climb two flights of stairs this would not be a possibility as it is two flights up from the main floor to get to our bedroom and bath.

The next day I had returned back to work and went into Toronto after my day was through.  DH was excited to show me his latest gain in that we walked an entire lap of the whole seventh floor of the hospital.  He had also done a flight of stairs up and down but tired easily, however understood baby steps and small gains.  He was thankful for the phone and TV as his new roommate was rather high maintenance and he was getting quite frustrated.

DH had been seen by the surgeon that day and the grumblings about him being released in three days’ time were confirmed.  I booked that Thursday off work.

The last few days of DH’s hospitalization were rather unremarkable other than his determination to climb two flights of stairs up and down, which he ended up doing with me with great glee.  The last night, he was informed that they needed his bed on the transplant ward and he would be spending his final evening on the general surgery floor in a ward.  He was not happy with that, however it was only one night I reminded him.

LCA and I drove into Toronto to pick DH up on September 27th and brought him home to two very happy and concerned dogs.  We were given discharge instructions to arrange a follow up with the family doctor in one week’s time and a follow up with the surgeon in two weeks’ time.  We were also instructed to come into the hospital the following Monday for his staple removal.  We spent a quiet weekend together, reacquainting ourselves with each other.

42 staples and a hell of a lot of steri-strip tape later, DH is at home and recovering, experiencing the usual post-surgery problems of discomfort, compounded with his pre-existing low-back issues and having a stomach that is recovering from having a section removed.  He continues to lose weight and, despite being a professional Santa, is not feeling very jolly these days.

The dogs continue to watch over him and alert me if there are any issues at night and I continue to fret myself silly about his condition.  We will reach our 12 year anniversary on October 26th and I love and cherish ALL the time I have with him.  As long as he is willing to fight, I will be beside him for love, support and whatever strength I can provide him.

To me, this is what love, honour and respect mean.  So yeah, I’ve been quiet here, but I figure the current circumstances explain the reasoning quite well.  Peace folks and give the ones you love a hug and remind them that you love them.  You never know when they could be taken from you.

as tears go by

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Doing things I used to do
They think are new
I sit and watch
As tears go by

M. Jagger, K. Richards

The past week has been one of mixed emotions for me and filled with both tears of sorrow and joy.   Between the angst of DH’s health issues and helping him emotionally as best I can and the other highs (music, family) and lows (work) in my life, I’ve had a rather odd week, filled with tears both positive and negative.

My day job involves working with people who are injured and most likely in a transitional phase in their lives as they are coping with recovering from their injuries and other factors in their day-to-day lives (work, family, social adjustments).  As I am dealing with folks who have been in the system for prolonged basis, I often get folks who have long-term disabilities resulting in changes that will affect their lives and livelihoods permanently.

Due to recent policy changes and management style, we have been reviewing many of these longer-term clients and adjusting the services and support we are offering them, more often than not, denying access to services many of these clients have had for years.  This has been tough and recently the anticipated (and somewhat devastating) outcome of one such decision came to fruition last week.  The decision-maker was, of course, on vacation and I was left to pick up the pieces.

My comment on twitter was that I was sure that I had no tears left inside me; however work indeed proved me wrong!

I had recently been contacted by a musician I admire and respect regarding doing some teaching/counselling for their organization.  I don’t know how I landed in their radar, however I was honoured that they reached out to me and asked me to talk about my music and how it relates to and reflects my philosophical vision and spirituality.  The first year I was asked, I was in a rather transitional phase and felt I was not ready to take on such a leadership role, however this year I was, but am unable to due to obvious reasons.

I called this musician and asked them if I could postpone to next year and was told that the invitation is standing and open and that they hoped I would consider becoming a permanent member of their team.  Tears began to flow again – this time tears of joy to be honoured so.  I am a lucky person to have supportive folks behind me who believe in me, even when I do not.

In one of my “music listography” blog postings, I posted a list of music I felt I needed to focus on more, which apparently hit on the radar of a drummer whom I regard rather highly as it included his music.  He wrote a comment on the blog posting in question and also contacted me directly.  More tears – of excitement this time.

I had been attempting to secure a particular piece of music equipment that will allow me to record guitars and basses easily, as well as serve as a live performance tool that will allow me to travel more lightly and carry less stuff with me in general.  It arrived and in the process of playing with it over the past week, I happened upon a tone that just worked for one of the songs on table for one. that has been a sticking point for me.

Writers block overcome in this case, more tears! 

There’s still more musical news, but some of it, I can’t say at the moment, but when the time comes, it will be announced!  Finally, I had a lovely weekend visit from my brother and his family, taking them to the local farmer’s market and one of my favourite cafés for brunch and a beverage.  It was nice just getting a chance to sit and talk with them not surrounded by family at a big gathering.  It sadly just doesn’t happen all that often anymore.

DB has commented that I must be suffering from emotional whiplash these days – it’s closer to that queasy, motion sickness, feeling after being on a roller coaster or the Magic Tea Cups…

how to restore faith in your business in 500 words or less

Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of days here at mykesworld!  My earlier blog posting about a business I love and continue to support has blown up locally and I’ve received a lot more attention than expected.  My little voice in the wilderness went from an average of 3 readers a day to over 550 readers in one day.

First of all welcome to the new readers and subscribers and THANK YOU!

Thank you as well to the folks who linked to it on Twitter, Facebook and their respective blogs!  Much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who commented, positive or negative!  No… let me rephrase that, thanks to the people who PUBLICALLY commented and did not hide behind anonymous names, fake email addresses and contributed to the discussion in a constructive and positive manner.  Those who posted anonymous comments that were little more than personal attacks and name calling to both the owners of the establishment in question and yours truly were not approved.

Sorry folks, I like discussion, NOT name calling and finger pointing and I posted using my full name and folks can figure out how to contact me to engage in discussion.  If you’re not going to do the same – you WILL be ignored in mykesworld!

I’m going to be open and honest here and state that I do have strong opinions and am not afraid to state them.  I have been banned from certain establishments because of online comments and reviews I have given them, however I cannot apologize for my experiences and opinions.  I do take my concerns directly to the people involved, however if the same issues continue to be repeated, I’m not afraid to voice them.

I’m sorry for the folks that saw my prior posting as tearing the business and their owners apart, it was not intended to do so and I think if you read my comments carefully, I was trying to show how their arguments about the city and their experiences might have been skewed by their frustration and anger.  I HAD attempted to reply to the initial posting, however my comments were deleted and further commenting on the posting was blocked.  A blog is intended as a two way street, so I tend to be a little more critical of the fact that they erased comments that disagreed with their perspective, eventually preventing any active discussion in the blog posting.  Isn’t preventing active discussion kind of against the blog mentality?

By doing so, they actually made the situation worse as the conversation was taken to Facebook, Twitter and other blogs.  The response made one week later, continued their determination and further deleting of comments which read to me as constructive criticism, made things worse.

Thankfully their manager took the bull by the horns and wrote her response to the controversy, which I hope will restore faith and support of this incredible establishment over the next few days.  Max is indeed a remarkable woman and The Baltimore House is lucky to have her at the reins.

I appreciate that Max’ response pulls NO punches: “I don’t blame ANYONE for being upset about ANYTHING either of these two guys posted on the Baltimore House blog this weekend. They were thoughtless, arrogant and way off-base, especially considering they haven’t seen Hamilton through the years like we have.”

I appreciate and applaud that Grant and Jimmy have allowed their staff to call them on their own pretensions and negative attitudes.  Such openness is mostly non-existent in the business world and more businesses need to take that approach.  I always appreciate when folks I’m working with constructively call me on my own bullshit!

I also LOVE Max’ last sentence in her response: “Let’s continue to show this city and all of its components, including the place I manage and believe in, how much we want it to thrive. You CAN do anything in Hamilton. Including forgive, accept, and embrace those who don’t know Hamilton as well as you do.” I will continue to support Baltimore House, as it is one of the best places to get a consistently good coffee, in a relaxing and chill atmosphere in surroundings that are, indeed, sexy!

Addendum One:

Jimmy has written again to set things right on his account!

Addendum Two:

Grant has added his own mea culpa to the mix!  I am truly impressed with his response and honesty over the situation.  This takes incredible chutzpah (balls) in my opinion!

Finale:

I’m glad to see the guys setting things right.  I am even happier to see that they still have the passion and drive to make The Baltimore House THE place to be.  Come June 24th, I want to offer any assistance I can in setting up a theme night that will set the Parlour Room apart from the rest of the downtown crowds.  Now I’m letting this matter drop, aside from buying Grant, Jimmy and Max a drink of their choosing – at my usual haunt on Thursday evenings from 5 until 7pm….Baltimore House.

the weekend domestic

As many of my regular readers may have gathered, I’ve been away from home or otherwise occupied with arranging a house concert and entertaining a friend from Louisiana for the past few weeks and have been somewhat lax in my focus on home life.  This was definitely remedied this weekend!

I am lucky to live and work in a city that has not one but two sizable farmer’s markets, which give me access to fresh, locally sourced foods.  One is mere blocks from my home (and less than a block from my favourite café, the Cannon Coffee Co.) and the other (which houses Red Hill Coffee Trade where CG, my favourite barista works) is literally right under my office at the day job.   I am lucky to be able to wander through the Hamilton Farmer’s Market and see what is fresh and good on a weekly basis.

I noted that the first of the local kale was hitting the stalls, so I picked up a bunch last Friday, dreaming of crispy, salty (albeit controlled amounts), iron-rich snacks throughout this week.  I also noted that one of the orchards had a new batch of Mutsu apples at their stall, so I picked up a basket.  There were also local green onions, ramps, local asparagus, fiddleheads and some nice looking corn and limes (both not local, but good looking).  It certainly looked like the dehydrator was to be getting a lot of use on the weekend!

On Saturday morning, I hooked up with DM2 to head to the Ottawa St. Farmer’s Market, where I picked up some hothouse peppers and jalapeno, zucchini, carrots and the first of the local strawberries.  I also picked up a fresh (still warm) bag of Hero Coffee’s Mexican coffee beans, before heading to the Cannon Coffee Co for a latte and conversation with DM2.

I finished off Saturday morning, at various grocery stores, filling the gaps in my grocery list (including some amazing organic romaine lettuce) and buying myself a new pair of shoes (required, as my current work shoes are getting a little worn).  I came home to “rest” and proceed to prepare my purchases for consumption throughout the week.

I started with grinding three batches of the coffee to prepare my slow brewed cold processed coffee for the morning walk/ride into work.  This takes 12 hours to brew so I could set this aside and forget about it until Sunday morning.  Next were the strawberries, which were cleaned, hulled, sliced and yes, snacked on – glad I bought two quarts!

The kale was next, stems trimmed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces and cleaned.  The kale bits were left to drip dry while I prepared the spice blend for the kale crisp recipe (a mixture of chilli, garlic and onion powder, pepper, sea salt and nutritional yeast – kind of a vegan nacho seasoning – the yeast gives it a cheesy texture with a savoury umami mouth feel), a splash of olive oil, some good massaging of the oil and spices into the leaves and then three hours in the dehydrator.

While the kale was processing, I fired up the barbecue and cleaned the asparagus, peppers, jalapeno, green onions and corn.  The veggies were all to be grilled for various salads, including my protein-laden quinoa salad (loosely based on Earth to Table’s quinoa salad, it’s spicy, with a slight Mexican flare).  While the veggies were on the barbecue, grilling, I prepared three salad dressings: a ceasar salad dressing from the “Looneyspoons” cookbooks, an orange garlic dressing for the asparagus and the spicy lime vinaigrette for the quinoa salad.

Once the veggies were suitably grilled, the asparagus was packaged up for Saturday night’s dinner (served with the orange garlic dressing and shaved parmesan cheese) and the others were peeled, sliced and mixed with the dressing to marinate.  All I have to do is cook the quinoa and add crumbled feta cheese for a healthy protein-rich salad!

By this time, the kale crisps were ready for packaging (air tight container) and the trays of the dehydrator were cleaned to prepare to dry apple slices.  I cleaned and removed the stems from the apples and used a mandolin to slice them into consistent rings.  These are dipped in acidulated water (water with citrus juice squeezed into it to prevent the apples from browning) and then placed upon the dehydrator racks and began drying the apple slices (again, these will take some time so I could set and forget them).

By this time, the dogs were getting antsy, so we went out for a walk, coming home just before DH returned from his sojourn to a memorial gathering for a father of a friend.  He had not eaten lunch and was bombarded with the smells of my busy afternoon, so he wanted dinner.  Thankfully I had the barbecue still fired up and hot, so a tilapia filet was grilled for him along with a marinated tofu cutlet for myself.

Meanwhile the coffee and apples continued in their processing while we dined, chatted and slept.

Sunday morning was a flurry of activity as the dogs got me up early to go for their walks, however balked when they discovered it was raining.  I was not impressed, but understood and was able to capitalize on the time before singing at church to filter and store the cold-process coffee and package up the dehydrated apple slices.  I then prepared hard boiled eggs for my early morning protein hit during the week and settled in for my breakfast.

A lovely walk to the newest café in Hamilton for a little pre-church caffeine boost and then a long service as it was Communion Sunday and the minister was rather long winded and repetitive during his sermon <sigh>.  A couple invited DH and I to their home in Toronto’s west end for coffee, conversation and dinner and also for us to go through some of their surplus belongings as they are decluttering, much like I am, so I rushed into Toronto and enjoyed their companionship – DH was not feeling up to it so I flew solo.

I had a lovely time and picked up some wonderful reading materials (vintage Vonnegut) and some philosophy and art books for DH.  I was also able to pick up the last two Sookie Stackhouse books (the companion book and the short story collection) so DH can now say he has read everything about Ms. Stackhouse and has a reading queue ahead of him.  So above all it was a successful weekend.  Monday is now time to relax in the orifice, and enjoy the fruits of this past weekend’s labours.

myke’s Hamilton and beyond café crawl

A while back I wrote on the incredible renaissance of independent coffee culture that my hometown Hamilton is experiencing.  More recently, I reviewed chain coffee alternatives with surprising results.  I’m heading back to my indie roots and focusing on two new cafés that have recently opened in Hamilton, Ontario and branching out to places I frequent while out of my home city who are definitely deserving of a mention!

Baltimore House recently opened on King William at Hughson, providing the downtown core a coffeehouse with plenty of atmosphere, good drinks and a variety of delicious sandwiches and house-baked goodies.  Their coffee is sourced from various local roasters including Homegrown Hamilton and Red Hill Coffee Trade (I believe they use their decaf).

The room looks gothic and dark, however the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.  The recent addition of the beautifully decorated “parlour” space, christened with a theatrical production, makes this a good location to sit while you savour and enjoy a quality coffee.  The European-style service (beverages are served on silver platters with a glass of water to cleanse your palate and a chocolate) adds a touch of class and makes you want to linger and soak in the atmosphere.

Baltimore house has become a favourite place of mine and DH’s to relax, write and enjoy a drink.

Cannon Coffee Company is the latest addition to the Hamilton coffee scene, bringing a bright and open space to the corner of Ottawa St. and Cannon St. East.  The room is bright and spacious and they serve up a smooth, delicious espresso shot (Detour’s Punch Buggy Roast) and are beginning to explore their food options with a variety of house-baked goodies and goods from Cake and Loaf Bakery.  Recently they had a lovely weekend brunch with your choice of house-baked quiche or waffles with local maple syrup. 

I am lucky to have this wonderful coffee house within walking distance of my home and anticipate many a weekend afternoon spent enjoying their hospitality and high quality beverage options.  The fact the owners Anne and Cindy make you feel welcome and an honoured guest in their establishment goes a long way and they always seem to go the extra step to make you feel like a valued customer.

Homegrown Hamilton  Formerly the Bread and Roses café and located in the Sky Dragon Center.  Homegrown Hamilton roasts their coffee on site, using only fair-trade green beans.  They also have a menu with a variety of vegetarian and vegan light meal and snack options.  Their coffee is very good, however quality of the espresso shots depends on who is working the machine.  Mike is an excellent barista and offers coffee cupping sessions on occasion.

The atmosphere is loose and artistic and they have a grass-roots and community-minded connection to the inner city.  The Sky Dragon Co-operative supports various community organizations and often offers classes and seminars aimed at effecting positive change in the world and community.

Cake and Loaf Bakery is a wonderful local bakery who specializes in quality baked goods made from ingredients that are organic, fair trade and sourced from local farmers and purveyors.  They offer a delivery lunch service (their soups, salads and vegan quinoa pies are incredible), in cooperation with THAAT Delivery (www.thaat.ca) and they also serve up a wonderful latte made from Detour Coffee that is always enjoyable, so when you pick up a treat or your bakery order, ensure you partake while you are there!

Coffee Tree Roastery, Toronto, ON was a recent find of mine in Toronto.  Despite being one of the oldest roasteries in Toronto, it wasn’t until a foray into Bloor West Village, did I find this gem!  I fully respect a place that smells of roasting coffee and has a wall of single source varietals and blends to choose from and yes, you can order the coffee that you drink from one of the MANY varieties available in French press or pour-over (Chemex to be exact!) style as well as what brewed or espresso blends they are serving that day.

The café itself has a small but delicious looking menu of products from local ACE Bakery, Jumbo Empanada and Wanda’s Pies and they specialize in a variety of breakfast burritos in the morning.  They also sell a nice selection of implements to brew their coffee at home including some beautiful Bodum and Chemex (perhaps the Rolls-Royce of pour-over coffee makers) products.  John, their roastmaster is usually on hand to assist you in selecting a blend, varietal and roast for your needs!

Their focus is on freshly roasted, coffee that is ethically sourced and is socially, environmentally and economically responsible.  They also have a wide variety of teas that fall under the Ethical Tea Partnership and are certified organic.  They also regularly support local and international charities through fundraising, auctions and donations.  Their coffee grounds are collected for garden and coffee sacks are recycled for use by their customers and various organizations.

Lit Espresso Bar, Toronto, ON Lit is one of the first independent specialty coffee bars in Toronto, specializing in Stumptown Roasters’ coffee.  Their trained baristas focus on every shot and their two locations are stylish and provide great places to relax and meet folks.  They also bake their own pastries in house and have regularly scheduled cuppings to help people understand their coffee better.  Their dedication to coffee perfection and education is admirable their locations are comfortable and, for the most part, free from pretension.

Moonbeam Café, Toronto, ON On the outskirts of Toronto’s Kensington Market lies Moonbeam Coffee Company.  I was shocked when I was first dragged into this coffee house (the name and exterior had me fearing the smell of patchouli incense and love beads), as I wasn’t expecting the smell of freshly roasted coffee (they roast their own blends from green beans) mingling with the smell of fresh baked goodies.

This narrow storefront provides a surprisingly large selection of fresh roasted fair-trade coffees, homemade baked goods and one of the larger tea selections in the city of Toronto.  Don’t let the small unassuming storefront fool you, there is adequate space to sit back and relax and enjoy a cup and a fresh made baked good.  The hippie-ish name belies their sensible nature and commitment to organic and fair trade coffees and teas.  Plus they pull a wicked good shot of espresso.

Balzac’s Coffee, Toronto, ON. Located in the Distillery District (with other locations in Liberty Village, Stratford, Niagara on the Lake and Kitchener), Balzac’s inhabits the former case goods warehouse and has an open, airy, almost European atmosphere.  Their snacks and goodies come from a who’s who of Toronto-area bakeries (including Dufflet, Stratford and the local Brick Street Bakery).  Their coffee is roasted in the Hamilton area (Stoney Creek if I recall) and they are able to pull a decent shot of espresso.  This location is absolutely HUGE and you should be able to find a table, except perhaps on busy weekends.

The upper level is a great space, displaying art by local artists and also serving as a cozy and intimate event space.  I have been to no less than two weddings at Balzac and have greatly enjoyed both occasions!  One warning though, don’t go to Balzac’s expecting wifi.  They do not provide it, so just sit back and enjoy the great atmosphere (all of their locations are in historic buildings chosen for their unique character), decent coffee and conversation.

Scratch Seasonal Bakery, Durham, NC Scratch is a small artisanal bakery located in Downtown Durham, NC whose aim is to support and nurture relationships with their local farmers and producers.  Their bakery has a variety of goods that changes daily based on what ingredients are available and they take their coffee seriously.  Like Cake and Loaf, they ensure that their baked goods and foods are accompanied by quality beverages.  Their location is light, airy and informal and a joy to visit!

I’ve heard from a very reliable source that their baked goods are truly delicious!

Uncommon Grounds, Saratoga Springs, NY  I was in Saratoga Springs, NY lecturing at a clown convention when the need for coffee beyond the dreck the hotel was serving was identified (really! this lasted after the first morning’s coffee infusion went down the bathroom sink).  In between classes, I walked down Broadway in the downtown area and was lured by the smell of freshly roasting beans.

I walked into Uncommon Grounds and found a beautiful shop filled with wood, warm lighting and the smell of roasting coffee and freshly baked bagels.  Needless to say, a coffee infusion and a bagel were absolutely necessary (as I was still fat, I still ate baked goods then).  Their coffee was wonderful and warranted repeat daily visits during my stay that week.  I was invited to attend my first cupping and enjoyed my first REAL espresso that week.

Uncommon Grounds was my first serious initiation into coffee culture and I quite enjoyed this unassuming place that focused on EVERY SINGLE aspect of their coffee from sourcing the beans, to roasting to brewing them perfectly.  This attention to detail both shocked and impressed me greatly and changed my life as a coffee drinker.

taking the next steps…moving the ball forward

The title should either make the co-workers at my day job who follow me smile or cringe mightily…sorry folks, I’m in a playful mood despite all the shoegazing and introspection I will be doing in this post.

Given recent events in my life, I have been writing and journaling furiously.  This is partially due to the therapy I have been undergoing as part of my weight loss journey and as part of my healing and recovery process as I am growing to understand who I am and what I truly want from life.  It is also partially due to my need to express myself in a constructive and healthy manner as I have been known to be rather self-destructive and self-defeating with past conduits of expression <sheepish grin>.

Let’s just say the only chemical stimulant that has fuelled this batch of song writing is caffeine!

I now have an album’s worth of songs worthy of recording.  These songs are more personal and harrowing than any other songs I have written.  I doubt this will be anything of the sort of the masterpiece “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” but it is a fair expression of my past few years’ journey.

To my friends and family (particularly DH, DB and The Parental Units) who have braved the past two years’ plus emotional and spiritual roller coaster ride, I thank you for your patience, support and love!

I will soon be performing these songs live as a suite, in order to prepare them for recording.  I am working out the logistics of what these songs have become and am getting used to actually expressing these thoughts and feelings out loud.  I will soon have to get used to expressing them in public!

I have asked a local coffee house to host some of my initial forays into public performance of this material, which I will slowly integrate into my usual shows until I have everything 100% together.  They have obliged me with being open minded and willing to work with me.  More on this later and I will definitely update here once I have started.

And now here comes the serious part:  as I am focusing more on my career as a musician and songwriter, I have had to assess my strengths and weaknesses as a business and sales person.  I am incredible at planning things but incredibly weak on the follow through.  So I’m in the process of setting out a plan that will give me identifiable check points and goals to meet so as to ensure that I am able to have something to show at the end of it all.

At the same time, I am becoming increasingly focused on the visual presentation of my ideas as I know I am not the most vibrant of performers on stage.  I am therefore working on my photography as an adjunct to my music and trying to create a visual representation of the images I portray in my songs and music.  How this will be manifested is currently unknown, however a number of concerts I have attended recently have had a strong visual conceptual presence that fit the music being performed.

My work with and continued interest in Lomography has provided me with an interesting outlet for my visual ideas and also is allowing me to delve into moving images using their latest invention:  a 35 mm film kinescope.  The primitive nature of the Lomographic cameras have informed my photographic and visual style strongly and are reflective of my ideas.  More on this as my ideas develop <sorry, I couldn’t resist>!

The work I have done on the bloodwood. project has somewhat been co-opted into this as some of the songs I was writing under that project are very personal.  Some of the images from the bloodwood. project also fit the aesthetic of my music as well.  Whether this means a shift in the overall aim of the bloodwood. project or if it’s just going on the back burner at this point, I do not know.  I am currently in discussions with a local branding and marketing studio to determine what this means for all three projects on the go at this point.

So to sum things up: 

  • therapy good,
  • writing good,
  • compelling live performance of very personal material hard,
  • photography good,
  • recording to come in the future
  • Myke is honestly okay and improving!