Sunday, June 30, 2013

Following Your Friends

I don't like change so I was a bit upset to find that Google Friend Connect is going away. I have all sorts of blogs that I follow and didn't want to lose track of them so I signed up for Bloglovin' and transferred them all over. It was easy as pie (okay, pie isn't easy) - it was easy as lemon squeezy - to sign up. I love following along with my favourite blogs and would hate to lose track of them.  

How do you follow blogs? I'm curious to know since I feel like the blog world has got more and more complicated since I started a few years ago.  Let me know in the comments what you have found to be the best tool for following blogs.

So we can stay in touch after tomorrow, you can continue to follow this blog by either using Bloglovin' or having the posts come to your email (it was ages before I knew how to check my email followers stats and when I finally did I was surprised to find out that so many of you follow along this way).  You can sign up for either of these in the sidebar over to the right.

P.S.  Have a great Canada Day tomorrow for those of you up here in the Great White North - which is green not white right now, by the way!  

Jackie Evancho in Concert at Artpark, Lewiston, NY, June 28, 2013

Chuck Yates

I finally saw the Classical Crossover prodigy Jackie Evancho in concert.  My husband and I have been fans since just after she placed second on the America's Got Talent show in 2010.  Jackie has since come out with three studio albums, including ones that have reached platinum and gold.  She has sung for the President of the United States and the Japanese Royal Family.  She has sung with Barbra Streisand, Susan Boyle, José Carreras, Tony Bennett, and Sumi Jo.  She has sung for an audience of 100,000 people in Russia and 30,000 people in Taiwan. She has modeled for Guess jeans and acted in a movie with Robert Redford. And she is still only 13-years old! A good part of the magic is that not only does Jackie have abundant musical talent, but she is poised, polite, charming, with a humble attitude, a kind heart, and boundless energy.

I had the opportunity to see Jackie when she came to Toronto in March 2013, but that was the only possible time I could go to New York City with my son, so I had to pass on that concert.  

When we heard that Jackie was going to be singing at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, we jumped at the chance.  Not only was the concert on my last day of work, which is a great way to kick off the summer, but it is just over an hour's drive from home.

We arrived in Lewiston with enough time to stroll around the historic town and have dinner.  Lewiston is a quaint old town on the Niagara River right across from Canada.  We had never been there before but had seen it many times from the Canadian side.

Lewiston is famous for being the staging area for the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle of the War of 1812. Although the British commander, General Brock, was killed in the attack, the Americans ultimately lost the battle largely because the local militia were unwilling to join the attack (you can read about our daughter, Kate, taking part in a reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights last October in this post).  

Brock Monument on Queenston Heights across the Niagara River in Ontario, Canada

Lewiston is also famous for being the final stop along the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves heading to freedom in Canada. Many heroic local citizens helped smuggle slaves across the Niagara River (you can read in the photo below the interesting story about Tryon's Folly, also called "the house of the four cellars", that was used to help smuggle slaves). Have you ever read the book Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark? The book is very popular with school children and was set in Lewiston, so the town erected a commemorative Freedom Crossing Monument.

Freedom Crossing Monument in Lewiston, NY
Lewiston is also known for Artpark, a concert venue that was the destination of our visit.  We arrived at Artpark at approximately 7:30 and moments later a tree fell down on nearby power lines causing a black-out to the entire town, including the concert venue.  Yikes! Was I going to miss a second opportunity to see Jackie? 

Artpark, Lewiston, NY

We waited about a half hour and, amazingly, by 8:00 the power was back on and we all breathed a sigh of relief. The concert began just 20 minutes behind schedule.  After listening to Jackie's CDs and watching so many YouTube videos of Jackie perform, I was excited to finally see the girl in action.

The concert was a definite thrill to experience her obvious talent, to hear the pure clear high notes and the rich full deeper tones. It was also fun to see all of Jackie's charming mannerisms out in full force. While her voice sounds like it is from someone much older, her youthful energy is evident in her stage presence. At the end of every song she responded like any enthusiastic child by giving sweet double-handed waves, giggles, and pert little "thank yous".  
Unfortunately, her inexperience was also evident on stage as it resulted in some awkward moments between songs and amateurish stage exits. She would do well to work on introducing more of her songs and developing some of the patter that help with the necessary transitions in a concert.

I hadn't expected to feel any anxiety during the concert, but I'm a bit of a worry-wart and I get anxious if I feel someone is uncomfortable or they might hurt themselves. In this case, Jackie initially seemed a little uneasy. She was constantly adjusting her hair and looking over to the right to where I assume her mother was waiting in the wings.  In addition, during the first part of the concert her high notes were sometimes slightly weak and breathy, which made me worry about her voice as we were just beginning the concert.  Fortunately, though, she hit her stride and by the second half of the concert she seemed more at ease, she stopped adjusting her hair and looking over at her mother, and her voice seemed stronger. This also meant I could relax and enjoy the concert.

Jackie looked every inch the star in her flashy dresses.  She wore the two dresses in the photos below for this concert (although I don't have photos from the actual concert and these pictures were taken from the internet). I loved the bodices of the dresses, but not so much the poufy skirts.  They were a little too frilly for my taste, although they do give her good stage presence.

via Best of Jackie on the Web

Photo taken by Andrew Snook via the Examiner at Jackie's concert in Atlanta 2013

Did you notice Jackie's bare feet in the photo above.  Interesting, eh?  We were sitting in the seventh row, so the stage floor was just at eye level and we could see her little feet under the billowing skirt of her teal dress as she padded across the stage. 

I think the bare feet are adorable, but they've got me pondering.  Why no shoes?  Is she trying to relax and calm herself down? Is it a little rebellion against all the formality and adultness in her life?  Does she "hear" the music better through her feet?  Has she grown and the dress is now too short unless she is barefoot?  So many questions and so few answers.  Whatever the reason, I think it looks cute seeing her little feet under her frock

Update (emailed to me by a Jackie fan):  it seems to be fairly common knowledge among long-time Jackie fans (and I think that Jackie or her mom may have even tweeted something about it at one time), that when Jackie is wearing shoes she would at times catch the edge of her floor-length dresses and sort of stumble when walking, while the bare feet allow her to feel where she is walking and help prevent any mishaps.

And do you know where Jackie is appearing next - in the PBS special that will be taking place in Washington D.C. on July 4th. You go girl!

P.S. To find out more about Jackie and see video clips of Jackie singing, you should check out the blog Best of Jackie on the Web.

P.P.S  To see more photos from the Lewiston concert see this post.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happy Canada Day

Yay for long weekends.  Yay for the three Rs - relaxing, reading, and red!

RELAXING by sleeping in and putting your feet up and only doing essentials.

READING magazines and starting on the summer pile of books.

RED (and white) like in the flags that are waving around everywhere and in the yummy fresh-from-the-field strawberries.

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers and for the rest of you, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

11 Canadian Designers' Favourite Rooms

If you are in the mood for some great design inspiration and a dose of Canadian talent (and who isn't) then have I got the post for you. Over at Style at Home you can find a story about 11 Canadian designers who were asked to share their favourite rooms and what inspired their projects.  

I love pouring over rooms that are well-designed and obviously created with talent and inspiration.  I like to play the "what's my favourite part game" so I thought I would share with you what elements I was drawn to in each room.  Be sure and click on the photos, though, so you can see the entire room and read more about them.

Here's what caught my eye:

1.  The gorgeous Egyptian doors in Samantha Sacks' home that frame the doorway between her dining room and kitchen.

The ultimate mix of traditional and modern (and especially this Windsor chair) in Jonathan Legate's Nova Scotia home.

3.  The iconic Aga stove which is the perfect compliment to Beth Gold's classic white kitchen.

4.  The wallpaper above the built-ins that make a bold statement in the living room designed by Alykhan Velji.

5.  The layered window coverings (and especially the trim on the leading edge of the drapes) that Erin Feasby and Cindy Bleeks used in this living room.

6.  The fabulous combination of gray-blue on the walls paired with coral in the headboard and patterned pillows in this bedroom designed by 
Meredith Heron.

7.  The timeless classic look of ticking stripes that 
Michael Penney used on the chairs in this Ontario farmhouse living room. 

8.  The worn rustic table contrasting with the dark chairs in this kitchen designed by Carol Reed.

9.  The perfect blend of pink, gold, and white in the gorgeous magnolia wallpaper, oval mirror, and headboard in Karla Amadatsu's daughter's room.

10.  The glass-fronted cabinets framing the simple dark fireplace in Ingrid Oomen's living room.

11.  The long bank of windows with views of Howe Sound from this kitchen designed by Emma Comesotti.

It makes me proud to be a Canadian when I see a line-up of talent like this.  Do you have a favourite room?  

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

Letter written in 1824

As some of you know, my husband writes books ... in his spare time!  He's an IT man by day and a lover of early 19th-century literature by night. 

So far he has two books published (you can read about our book-launch party and how we commemorated that momentous occasion here) and is presently working on his third.  His topic of choice is a periodical called the Quarterly Review that was founded in London in 1809.  His present book is a collection of letters written between 1807 and 1843 by the journal’s first three editors, its publisher, John Murray, and important contributors. 

In the process of writing the book, he has handled and read many manuscripts and letters written by famous writers  -- such as Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to name only a few. 

I have often thought how nice it would be to put a copy of one of the Quarterly Review letters up in our home as the QR has been such a big part of our lives. However, my husband has always resisted the idea because he wasn't sure he would like the look and, more importantly, he didn't have a good enough print of the letters.  Until now that is. 

Last week he received a note-worthy copy of a letter because it was printed using a high-quality colour photocopier (you can see part of the photocopy above).  Previously, he’d only received black and white photocopies, which means they didn’t look at all like the originals. Because this one’s in colour, it’s much easier to get a sense of how the old paper and the ink actually look. Back then, paper was made from rags, not from wood pulp, which is one reason why the letters from the period generally are in great shape. I like to imagine how the author of the letters would look sitting at an old wooden desk writing the letter using a quill pen.

The letter at the top of the page was written by the Quarterly Review's first editor, William Gifford, which makes it meaningful to my husband.  He has spent countless hours in libraries in Great Britain and the US poring over old letters like the one above. At first he found it very difficult to decipher the old handwriting, but now he’s well acquainted with the writing of the Quarterly’s editors and publisher.

So, what we have in mind is to enlarge both pages of the letter above and then either frame them individually or, more likely, have them printed onto canvas.

I put together some inspiration photos so we could see what size and way of displaying the letter would work best for us.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them as well.

I found inspiration photos for displaying a single letter, groupings of multiple letters, and unusual ways to display letters.  

A large copy of a letter looks fantastic framed with a wide black frame.

The Old Painted Cottage

Southern Living

A single letter also can be enlarged and printed on a canvas,

Meredith Heron's Living Room from Style at Home
or onto burlap,

Melissa Mercier

or attached to wood and antiqued.

No Minimalist Here

Or one letter might be hung in a gallery wall along with an assortment of other pictures and artifacts.

Young House Love

If you have many letters, then framing them in matching gold frames and hanging them together like in the gallery wall below makes a cohesive grouping.

Pretty Stuff

Or a series of letters, framed with matching white mats and black frames, look great hung in a symmetrical grouping.


Tattered Style

Some other creative ways to enjoy letters include applying the text directly to the wall,

Style at Home
or printing the letters onto fabric and sewing them into cushions.

Alisa Burke
Have you ever displayed a favourite letter?  I think it is such a lovely way to add something personal to your home.  This is a project I'm going to work on this summer so I welcome your suggestions.

Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

Tall Ships Visit Toronto

Several tall ships are making their way to various ports on the Great Lakes to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (which actually lasted longer than just one year so the bicentennial continues this year). It was Toronto's turn over the weekend so I went downtown to have a look.

I love old sailing ships. 

I think all the varnished wood and ropes everywhere look amazing, 

I love the little touches that made each ship unique.

I love seeing their sails aloft when they are out for a sail,

And best of all I adore all the colourful little flags.  


Parks Canada had displays set up and costumed interpreters there as well. 

Have you ever seen the tall ships?  Wouldn't it be fun to go out for a sail in one.