West Coast Easter Staycation

Easter Weekend 2013 in Vancouver was, in one word, stunning.  Hot, sunny, clear blue skies. Quiet, because half the city headed away for the weekend.  I’m going to be travelling for most of the next few weeks (just for something different . . ) – a long weekend at home seemed just about perfect to me.  And as it got warmer and sunnier day by day, not regretting that decision one little bit.  It was cut off shorts and flip flops all weekend, my favourite weather.  Despite having lived in Canada for a big chunk of my life, I’m an Australian summer beach girl at heart.  Daffodils abloom and lavender in my garden. 

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To celebrate the first gorgeous day of the year, Deep Cove Kayak opened for the paddling season on Good Friday.  That alone was reason enough to drag out the paddling gear, which involved shoving hockey bags, Christmas decorations and sundry other winter gear to the back of the storage under the stairs to reach the summer sports gear. But that’s a reorg I love!  We were the fourth kayaks to go out this year – yeah us!  It was mirror calm in the Cove and out into Indian Arm, with hardly a breath of wind with about 15C (65F) ambient air temperature. In other words, picture perfect paddling conditions.  In 2 hours we managed to cross to Jugg Island, pull up on the beach for a photo op, paddle up to Raccoon Island (oops major fail on the “stay close to the coast, the water is cold” instruction”) cross back to the north side of the Arm and paddle down to Grey Rocks.  Great first paddle, although I would pay the price later in sore butt and back for putting in that distance first day out!  Yup, this is where I live, lucky me. 

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A late lunch and a couple of beers on a sunny patio should have been perfection enough for one day, but it was the first night of the long weekend, so it was off to Kitsilano for some Friday Frolics.  I don’t know Kits well, which is a bit strange given that I’ve lived in Vancouver for 20+ years, but better late than never to get a fun lesson in some of the neighbourhood hangouts.  I can’t wait to go back to try the Southern Fried Chicken (not so secret vice I’m prepared to run extra miles to indulge) at Chewies Steam and Oyster Bar, hidden away on a side street.  

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As I said at the end of a that long, fantastic day and night, it was a 12 out of 10 day. Loved every second of it. 

Saturday and I looove waking up to realize I’ve already had a day off and I have two more!  An excellent coffee and I went out for a long, leisurely run on the forest trails that are my backyard.  Poor me, I know.  After that it was a lazy, catch up on stuff at home sort of day.  Which meant cleaning off the deck and getting out the patio furniture, throwing in a load of laundry then sitting in the sun with a few cold beers and a good book. Sheer bliss.  Did I say blissful.  Sheer bliss. Ok, I really needed some downtime!  Checking in with friends on their day, they were variously hanging out at Wreck Beach, sitting on a patio somewhere or, for the more ambitious, skiing in Whistler.  Conditions were pure spring snow . . in March.

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So you take your pick; patio time, suntanning at the beach or spring skiing. It all makes up a Vancouver Easter staycation. 

It’s Sunday night and still 18C (70F) on the deck.  We went to Commercial Drive today to pick up the makings of an Easter feast.  It was more patios and sunshine.  

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Cappuccinos at the oldest, and arguably tackiest Italian coffee shop in town, but with authentic Italian coffee.  Mmmm, Cafe Calabria. 

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And cherry blossoms, in full bloom, everywhere.  Tojo’s and Miku, two of the best sushi restaurants in Vancouver, are featuring cherry blossom sushi rolls and pickled cherry blossom salads.  Only in Vancouver (or maybe Tokyo). . a must try. 

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As I’m writing I’m enjoying a particularly fine Three Philosophers from Brewery Ommegang in upper NY State. 

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And the barbeque is fired up for a lamb dinner with a great bottle of pinot noir, a gift from my good friend J who works at Quails Gate Winery. All in all, a picture perfect Easter weekend.  Oh and I nearly forgot – season opener of Game of Thrones tonight!

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I’ve been a bit obsessed with the new John Denver tribute record to be released April 2.  With the likes of My Morning Jacket, Lucinda Williams, Kathleen Edwards and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros covering some of John’s best known and loved songs, I’ve had it in heavy rotation.  My current favourite is the Amos Lee cover of Some Days are Diamonds.  I couldn’t find a YouTube video yet (how to know your your tastes are obscure) but here is the link on NPR. 

The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver

This weekend was platinum.  Happy Easter y’all. 

 

Happiness app

After a fun Friday night frolic at the local, I was having a sort of slow Saturday morning (read between the lines…. kind of hungover) reading the paper and drinking tea.   Am slowly recovering!!  Our local paper, the Vancouver Sun, has started a new series on “Fnding Happiness”.    Being a generally quite chipper gal,  I delved into the feature.  I learned that the five characteristics of happy people are:

1.  Happy people manage their money well (doing ok so far, no debt collectors calling and a few bucks stashed for my old age).

2.  Happy people spend their money on life experiences, rather than material goods (check, that’s me.   I sometimes despair when I visit my friends in their beautifully decorated homes, or they pick me up in fancy cars.  I’m pretty basic in both of the above.  But I do have a treasure trove of experiences – oh yeah).  This is me on a trail ride in the high desert in Nevada.  Amazing.

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3. Happy people think fondly about the past and skip over the bad bits. (had to think about this one for a bit, but yes, definitely getting way better at letting go of the bad bits and keeping the good.  I’ve learned to forgive, if not forget!!).

4.  Happy people are empathetic, sharing the happiness (and sorrow) of others.  (Yup, pretty good on that one).

5. Happy people live in communities where they have a sense of belonging, freedom and of being valued.  (5 out of 5 – outstanding!  Although my idea of “community” may not be everyone’s – I include my extended online community of family and friends all over the world and am much less tied to a particular square of real estate).

I also learned that as people’s incomes rise, so does their happiness, but only to a point and that point is about $75,000.  After that, extra money doesn’t add significantly more happiness.  Seems that in the developed world that’s the number that means you can basically pay your bills and not worry about food, shelter and other necessities.  It gives me a lot of happiness to think that I’m so much happier than those gazillionaires who just keep getting less happy with every extra million they stash away.  I wonder how happy Bill Gates is?  Maybe being super rich just makes you worry about how to keep all that loot, or how to protect all your fancy belongings or just how to keep getting more of all of the above.  Safe to say I’m never going to have this problem!!

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And wouldn’t you know, even happiness has an app, trackyourhappiness.org is a Harvard research study using an iPhone app to track people’s own experience of happiness “in the moment”, three times a day.  I wouldn’t mind knowing exactly how happy I am, so I signed up.  I logged on with my phone, input some basic demographic information and I’m now signed up to text my happiness response (or perhaps lack thereof) in real time three times a day.  Should be interesting.  Did my first one immediately after I signed up and despite being a little worse for wear from last night, I’m pretty happy right about now.  It’s sunny Saturday, lying on the couch reading and blogging, getting ready to take my pooch out for a nice long walk in the forest and then a fun night out listening to a great band tonight.  And I just finished booking flights for a fabulous birthday trip with a girlfriend in May – see above under “experiences, not things”.  What’s not to love about my day.  Simple needs fulfilled.

Have a found the deeper meaning of my life?  I don’t think so, but I’m a lot happier not worrying about that.  I have a good job that’s challenging and brings me  lots of satisfaction, even through the ups and downs.  I have enough $$$ to live a decent life and indulge my love of travel and music (in the best case those both happen together!).  I just bought weekend passes for the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky this summer.   It’s a three day festival of music,  art and environmental activism.  And what do I know about Louisville – nothing, but I’m going to learn and it’s going to be a blast.  Check out this line-up – it makes me happy just reading it.

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As Bob Marley would say, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.  Off to enjoy the sunshine.

 

No more book stores, no more record stores and no more Sound City.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been home enough to get caught up on some reading, news and music, or maybe it’s because South by Southwest, the incredible music, film and interactive media showcase event in Austin, TX is on, or maybe it’s just one of those cycles when there is a lot of great music, film and books  out there, but wow, my Saturday mornings on NPR and Sundays browsing the NY Times and local book reviews have been killing it of late.

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The biggest thrill for me, currently in the midst of a full-on Dave Grohl love crush, is his new documentary about the legendary LA recording studio, Sound City, an official Sundance 2013 selection.

Sound City was the place where “men went to make rock and roll records”.  It was a tape based studio where real musicians played real music and that magical chemistry happened.  Nirvana recorded Nevermind there and Tom Petty, Metallica, The Foos, Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick, Johnny Cash, Guns n Roses are just a few of the bands that recorded rock history in the studio with brown shag carpet on the wall.   And when Dave goes out to make anything, he does it right;  Sound City is written by Mark Monroe  (The Cove) and edited by Paul Crowder (Dogtown and  Z Boys) and the soundtrack features Grohl with some of the legends who recorded at Sound City – Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Mick Fleetwood and some who didn’t like Paul McCartney.    It’s a study in answer to Dave’s question, “How do we keep music sounding like people?”   Here is “From Can to Can’t”  featuring  – OMG – Dave Grohl, Corey Taylor (Slipknot and Stone Sour <3),  Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) and Scott Reeder.  I had a little moment just listening to this!!

What else has caught my ear or eye recently?  I’ve taken on a new job with a steep learning curve, so I’m reading a lot of work related material, but the new release from Marina Adshade, “Dollars and Sex; How Economics Influences Sex and Love” made me put down “The New Leaders Action Plan” for a browse through her data packed study of the intersection of personal and social economics with love and sex.

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I think an equation like this would do wonders for sex education in high schools:

Probability of Pregnancy (0.45) x Probability of Marriage (0.48) x Foregone Income from Marriage ($50,000) = Expected Cost of Promiscuity ($10,800).

What I’m wondering about though is how she calculates the foregone income from marriage number?  There is also the “unexpected fact that STI’s are on the rise in the over-50’s population as a consequence of increasing rates of casual sex and extremely low rates of condom usage”.    I’m wondering what part of that was “unexpected”?

Trying to stick with my speed blog mantra (no more than 30 minutes to write – well that was a fail!) here’s a round up of what I’ve found new and remarkable in the music world in the last few weeks.

Johnny Marr “The Messenger”.    Godlike guitar genius, Smiths alumni, awesome.

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Tribute albums are not usually my thing, but for a tribute someone I was lucky enough to know, “The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver”,  I’ll make an exception.  And I think this track listing shows the depth and variety of talent his music influenced.  “Simple, pure and beautiful”.  And I”m super,  excited to see a relatively unknown Canadian singer I happen to love, Kathleen Edwards, on this list.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by My Morning Jacket
“Take Me To Tomorrow” by Dave Matthews
“All of My Memories” by Kathleen Edwards
“Prisoners” by J Mascis and Sharon Van Etten
“Sunshine On My Shoulders” by Train
“Back Home Again” by Old Crow Medicine Show
“This Old Guitar” by Lucinda Williams
“Some Days are Diamonds” by Amos Lee
“Rocky Mountain High” by Allen Stone
“Annie’s Song” by Brett Dennen and Milow
“Looking For Space” by Evan Dando
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by Brandi Carlile and Emmylou Harris
“The Eagle and The Hawk” by Blind Pilot
“I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
“Darcy Farrow” by Josh Ritter and Barnstar!
“Wooden Indian” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Not one to rest on his musical laurels or embark on one of those shite nostalgia rip off tours, Bryan Ferry decided to reimagine some of his best work as 1920’s jazz age songs.  He is a true student of music whose knowledge is broad and deep.   The Jazz Age is not a vanity piece, it’s a fascinating exploration of how really good music transcends ages and genres.  Some of them work out better than others, but it’s definitely worth a listen.   I could see myself standing in the Spotted Cat on Frenchman’s Street in NOLA listening to the Cotton Mouth Kings play any of these.  High praise.

In indie land I’ve fallen for  Ivan and Alyosha and The Lone Bellow, both at SXSW.  The Lone Bellow aren’t new to me, they are following the path laid down by The Civil Wars and I’m glad to see them getting some wider recognition.  “The Two Sides of Lonely” is mesmerizing, haunting, gorgeous.

And if you have any doubt they are Civil Wars and not Lady Antebellum, check out their Tiny Desk Concert.

Ivan and Alyosha are almost my hometown heroes, coming from just south of the border in Seattle, WA.  Can’t wait to catch them at Showbox.

The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek. There are still lots of great independent book and music stores out there, but sadly, no more Sound City.  I’ve got a lot of travel coming up real soon.  Abusing my  iTunes account and getting loaded for those cross-country flights.   That was  waaay too much fun.