If you have ever talked to me about my life in Thunder Bay, you are likely to hear stories of my time at Lakehead University, the wonderful friends I’ve made and the majestic beauty of its natural surroundings.

 

In the same conversation, you are also likely to here me rave about The Hoito.

 

The Hoito Restaurant is a Finnish-Canadian restaurant and for nearly 100 years has been a cultural institution in Thunder Bay.

 

To say I was shocked to hear that it could close would be underselling it. I’m reading the CBC story (http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/canada/thunder-bay/thunder-bay-s-hoito-restaurant-could-close-1.2997152) and it’s clear how any business can be crushed by debt.

 

However this doesn’t change how I feel about the place or the memories of the great times it conjures up.

 

There is something very special about this place. Each time I visit Thunder Bay, as part of my volunteer work for the Alumni Association of Lakehead University, I make a point of having breakfast here.

 

I cozy up to a counter seat and order a chocolate milk. My order usually consists of Finnish pancakes but on those occasions where I’m feeling extra naughty, I order the Hoito Burger. Yes – I’ve ordered a burger and fries (with gravy) at 7:00 in the morning.

 

Even the mention of gravy brings back waves of nostalgia. Perhaps I’m being over sentimental, but I’d like to think not.

 

I’m sure the resourceful people of the Finlandia Club, the people of Thunder Bay, the students of both Lakehead University and Confederation College will find a way to save this institution. I can only hope.

 

For those in the know – this post was written by Gravy!

New Music Mondays

December 1, 2014

It has been more than a few Mondays since I last shared my musical ramblings, but it’s back and more personal and raw.

Just over two weeks ago, I co-MC’d a talent show in support of our workplace charitable campaign. This show was an opportunity to have fun and celebrate the diverse talents that exist within the federal public service. And from my perspective we had fun.

You can check out some of the highlights and talent here.

Now as an emcee, I was also encouraged to share my musical talents. I’m not convinced that there is talent, but in the spirit of community, I took the plunge and shared.

I will spare the results, but if you have a morbid interest, and are even a basic Internet sleuth, you can find the video.

I’m rambling for early Monday morning and will get to the point. After the show, a long time friend invited me over to his place to record the song.

Matt is a musician, has worked in professional recording studios and suggested he could ‘spice’ up my very amateurish song. I took him up on the offer.

This wasn’t a simple hit record and play. He helped me rearrange the song, trim some verses and together we came up with a chorus.

Matt laid down a drum beat, a bass line and also added another guitar track. I was impressed. He worked that board – well like a professional.

His feedback was honest and direct but luckily I was doing this for simple fun, so no bruises.

I have a rough cut of a song. It’s comes in at a short 2 and a half minutes. I’m looking forward to hearing the final version and look forward to the next recording session.

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The Way I Feel Today

November 29, 2014

I can’t remember the last time I was truly sad. Sad in the way where your gut wrenches and your thoughts are consumed.

It’s a strange feeling. I’d like to think that my friends and family think of me as upbeat, ‘happy go-lucky’ if you’ll excuse that colloquialism. But today I feel sad.

This isn’t a seasonal thing, nor a persistent and/or recurring feeling, this is, as I alluded to earlier, something I haven’t felt in a long time.

So I find myself back here, writing, thinking and sharing.

I’ve made mistakes and bad decisions. Some of those were fuelled by selfishness, others by carelessness, and others were propelled by a misguided sense of adventure, which has caused sadness for others and sadness for me.

For those that know me – I mean truly know me, I don’t easily disguise my feelings. When it comes to reading my emotions, I’m the Saturday morning comics. Simple.

The way I feel today is strange. Sad. Honest. Heart-wrenching sadness.

Perhaps it’s true that sadness can’t be experienced without knowing happiness. Happiness – more on that in a later post.

I’ll be alright.

A Family Tradition

July 20, 2014

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the return the Ottawa REDBLACKS! It’s been nearly a decade since a CFL game has been played at Lansdowne Park, now TD Place and in that time my son has grown into a fine young man.

I wanted to look for a tradition I could share with my son – something that we can learn, love and laugh together and season tickets seemed like a wonderful idea. Season tickets were something we never had. We have gone to other sporting events, but this would be the first time that we would be season ticket holders – complete with our very own seats!

I think I was more excited than my son, but as opening day grew closer, I could see his curiosity and excitement build. He wasn’t having anything to do with my plans to dress up as lumberjacks, but I did want opening day to be something very special.

I ordered some appropriately themed cupcakes from Vanilla Gourmet Cupcakes, picked up the required Ottawa REDBLACKS swag from our neighborhood Giant Tiger (Thank you to @mrsnickcharney for the idea) and patiently awaited for our departure to the TD Place.

As a thank you, we shared our first cupcake with the taxi driver that drove us to the game and preceded to share the rest of them with random strangers around the stadium. You can see some of those photos here.

To say the mood was electric would not only be an understatement, but also downright boring. It felt wonderful to be part of this exciting chapter of Ottawa and the REDBLACKS! To be able to share this with my son was magically magnificent.

We soaked up the atmosphere and you can genuinely tell that people were excited to have professional ball back in the nation’s capital. We wanted to experience it all and we did.

Beverages. Food. The comraderie. Hanging out on the West Lawn to try and catch a football was one of the highlights. Meeting Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons – was an awesome experience. Sharing this with my son – unbelievable.

There were multiple winners that night! The Ottawa REDBLACKS, the fans and me.

Can’t wait for the next game! #GOREDBLACKSGO!

You can learn more about Vanilla Gourmet Cupcakes here:
Facebook: Vanilla Gourmet Cupcakes
Twitter: @VanillaGourmet
Web: Vanilla Gourmet Cupcakes

New Music Mondays

July 7, 2014

Festival season is upon us. No sooner is the last note played at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, then we welcome the RBC Ottawa Bluesfest!

Bluesfest is celebrating its 20th Anniversary and takes place each July. The festival itself has evolved, on many fronts, over the last 20 years. We have seen a progression from a blues-centric showcase to one that celebrates and promotes mainstream pop, nostalgic rock, and everything in between. It’s evolution is something I appreciate and is likely one of the reasons, why I have been a volunteer for the last 4 festivals.

Another reason to support Bluesfest is the opportunity to be introduced to music from artists that I have not had the pleasure of knowing.

With its first weekend over, I’ve already been introduced to the Honey Island Swamp Band, as well as, Shovels and Rope. If I were to judge Bluesfest on these introductions alone, I’d call this year’s installment a success!

Honey Island Swamp Band is often described as bayou Americana. I wouldn’t disagree with this description, but would add that it’s a wonderful mashup of southern funk and country-fried rhythm and blues! Definitely worth a listen. I’ll be on the search for their upcoming release, Cane Sugar!

Admittedly, I was introduced to Shovels and Rope earlier this year by Erin Gee, but this was the first time, in fact, Ottawa’s first time to hear and see them live. They did not disappoint! This husband and wife duo, from South Carolina, brought with them such an immense energy to their live show, I look forward to seeing them again and on a larger stage!

They successfully blend Shovels & Rope traditional folk, rock and roll, country rock, and blues into their music. Easily – the highlight of this year’s installment of Bluesfest! Their new album, Swimmin’ Time comes out later this month! I’ve added it to my must buy list.

That’s it for now. Still lots of great music to be seen and heard at Bluesfest! Go out! Explore. Experience. Enjoy!

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Honey Island Swamp Band

I haven’t grown tired of running to work. It’s an both an economical and spiritual method of transportation. Along with running, I have a passion for experiencing the open road on a bicycle.

My 16 year old mountain bike was re-purposed to be a winter commuter, albeit, one that was used infrequently. I also have a 2011 Giant TCR Composite 1. However, something was missing.

On those short errands or short rides to work, it’s hard to justify riding the Giant, so I began my search for a more urban commuter. I settled on a ‘fixie‘, the Echo, from Pure Fix Cycles.

It’s utilitarian and simplistic design is part of its beauty and the idea of riding a fixie, was part of the allure.

Today was the first day I used it to commute to work. I’m not talking long distance here, rather a short bust of effort to get to and from work, and allow me to continue running, but over the lunch hour.

Today’s journey taught me a few lessons:
1. The bike needs a back brake: This kind of talk might go against all that a fixie is meant to be, but if you have ever biked in Ottawa, you know that the the extra stopping power provides an invaluable sense of comfort.

2. Clip-less Pedals: This is a no brainer for me. More power and again more control.

3. Hills: I won’t be climbing, with any regular frequency, any steep hills, but inclines are a tad more challenging with one gear. Please refer to lesson #2.

4. Headwinds: No matter if you are a weekend road racer, a daily commuter, or back-country rider, headwinds are your nemesis.

If you have any suggestions for this fixie newbie, please share them. In the meantime, cycle safe!

More information on Pure Fix Cycles:
Facebook: Pure Fix Cycles
Twitter: @PFCycles
Web: purefixcycles.com

More information on cycling in Ottawa:
1. City of Ottawa
2. National Capital Commission
3. GoBiking.ca

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New Music Monday

April 28, 2014

Full disclosure. My admiration for the Tragically Hip is unrelenting. From the late 1980’s, their music has been a constant for me. I’ve seen countless shows, crossed international borders to see them and have a library of photos from past shows.

So when I heard that Justin Rutledge was releasing an album of covers, I was intrigued. I have heard various covers of various Hip songs, from Sarah Polley’s cover of Courage, to the Sterephonics’ cover of Fiddler’s Green, I’ve been surprised by his imaginative and creative interpretations.

Daredevil, Justin Rutledge’s latest album, came out on April 22 and it’s been on heavy rotation over the last week. I don’t know the history of the name of the album, but can only imagine that it’s a reflection of the guts it took to take on a project like this.

These are not simply covers, but rather stripped down and rebuilt testaments to a band and the music from Justin Rutledge’s formative years.

You won’t hear the anthemic ‘New Orleans is Sinking’, or the culturally entrenched ‘Wheat Kings’, but you will hear an album of covers that will surprise you. The arrangements and the guest voices of Andy Maize (Skydiggers) , Jenn Grant, Brendan Canning and others have produced an eerily haunting album – one where when you close your eyes, you are transported to this surreal state of wonderment.

Put it Off, Fiddler’s Green and Grace, Too are some of my favourites! Whether you are a fan of The Hip or Justin Rutledge, you’ll be happy with Daredevil.

Take a it for a spin. Let me know what you think!

To learn more about Justin Rutledge:
Facebook: Justin Rutledge Music
Twitter: @JustinJRutledge
Web: justinrutledge.com

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