Handmade in Canada…things are looking good…..plus a link to some great music

LMYR 1I may have mentioned my new project in passing on this blog before. The project is called Handmade in Canada. The concept is to profile Canadian artists, artisans, musicians, writers and growers (and food producers).

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Being an artist and maker myself (and knowing many other creative people), the most difficult part of our craft is promoting what we create, showing people what we do, and letting people know where and how to purchase our creations. Most of us want to be tucked away in our studios working away rather than marketing ourselves. After a lot of thought I made the decision to create a site to do just that, and the site/blog is www.handmade-canada.com . In the last few weeks interest has been growing. We are seeing some great things made by Canadian makers and hearing some great music. We are also meeting some really cool people. This is turning out to be a fabulous project with great potential.

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As I have a ton of readers on this blog, I will also on occasion be linking through profiles from the Handmade in Canada site. It won’t turn the blog into an on going infomercial, I wouldn’t want to rob readers of updates on my seedlings or the ongoing war with the insurance industry (near the end now…report for scope of repairs was 14 PAGES long….I’ll share more in another post). I want to give each of these creative people as much exposure as possible ( and show all the readers some pretty cool stuff too!).

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If you follow www.islandhomeblog.wordpress.com I will also be sharing west coast creators on that blog, especially since home studios are so much of the island culture.


Today I am going to share a link for Liam MacKenzie and Young Rust. Check out their bio by clicking HERE, and definitely listen to their music……it is really, really good.

Hopefully by sharing links, blog readers will find some new music that they love, a book they want to read, some art to admire,  handmade items to cherish, or even locally produced food.

The site www.handmade-canada.com is also a WordPress blog, so feel free to follow along and discover some talent that has been home grown here in Canada.


The Bashing of Alberta…….a new popular sport

Late October sunset on Highway 20 , "somewhere" south of Breton, Alberta, Canada.

Late October sunset on Highway 20 , “somewhere” south of Breton, Alberta, Canada.

I sit here on January 17th, 2014 and realize there are reasons not to make a New Year’s Resolution, quite honestly because they can’t be kept. After 2013 I surely should have made a resolution to avoid controversial issues; that was the year that we fought for habitat, fought against a development, fought by-laws being broken, and a shoddy school system. Granted, if you look closely you can see small changes that happened through all the jumping up and down, but still at this point a normal person would probably just give up and hide under a rock. Truly I did try to stay hidden under my rock, but glimpses of the “Q” interview with Neil Young (by Gian Ghomeshi) last night regarding the Alberta oil sands followed by the statement by Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo that I read today confirmed I could no longer stay silent.

I will never understand why “celebrities” do not stick to the business they know, but they don’t. Now admittedly I might have a teeny tiny bit of my personality that could be labelled “cynical” but one does have to wonder why these two gentlemen have ventured to be vocal in the arena discussing the oil sands of Alberta. What do they have to gain? Now one of the gentlemen, Jim Cuddy, has a cross- Canada tour happening with his band Blue Rodeo, so it is pretty safe to say what he has to gain is publicity. You know what they say….”there is no such thing as bad press”. Pretty tacky. It isn’t as if the oil sands are “new” news so jumping on the bandwagon now hoping to sell a few extra concert tickets and three more t-shirts is just plain cheesy. Neil Young, who knows, but I won’t be surprised if we see a “new” “BEST OF NEIL YOUNG” album released in the coming months.

I’ve decided to tackle this post in this order, first discuss each of these two “spokes-people”, then discuss their approach, then just for fun throw some numbers at you (because statistics are the new sexy!).

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Let’s start with Neil Young. Let’s start with one basic fact. According to Wikipedia Neil Young has lived in California since the 1970’s. Ahem, yes you read that right. CALIFORNIA. Now last time I checked not only was California not in the province of Alberta, but it also wasn’t in the country we know as Canada. Evidently he is still a “Canadian Citizen”. Evidently by having a little blue passport with the word “Canada” on it it entitles him to toddle up north of the 49th parallel and start spewing hate against one of the more significant industries and employers of our province. Now this man jumped ship in the 1970’s. He said through his actions that I choose to live in the U.S.A.  over Canada. I choose the U.S.A. over Canada. Period. Nice patriotism dude. Yes this is a guy that truly has Canada’s back….not. He kept the passport for the ease of travel. Obvious. As everyone knows there are nice perks to travelling as a Canadian compared to travelling as an American. Ever backpack Europe?I have. It is comical to count the Americans that sew a Canadian flag on their backpacks in hopes of being treated better. Neil Young did the same by keeping his citizenship. Shameful.

“Using” his citizenship is shameful enough, but now let’s talk hypocrisy. First we will revisit that Neil Young lives in California. I just didn’t want anyone to forget that fact. Evidently there are no environmental issues in California. None. A perfect little Disney utopia. Pristine pollution free air in California so Mr. Young feels the need to come to Canada to find an environmental issue. Has anyone been to Los Angeles, taken their life in their own hands and risked breathing? Just breathing, nothing else. And don’t you just love the gobs of black snot that form inside your nose from the pollution. Memorable. But remember all the environmental issues of North America are in the oil sands of Alberta. Let me share this experience with you, in California there is this lovely (truly it is stunning, no sarcasm) little spot called Joshua Tree National Park that we visited a few years ago. As you drive through the park it is mile after mile of stunning scenery and at one spot there is a viewpoint for the San Andreas Fault. You reach the viewpoint, look off to the distance and all you can see is smog. Thick smog. Smog is pollution. Smog too is killing this earth.

A word of advice to Mr. Young…… if you want to save the earth start by solving the problems in your own backyard. Your backyard called California is a cesspool of pollution. Fix that first before spouting off in MY COUNTRY and MY PROVINCE.

(Okay I also just have to ask, what everyone thinks of Neil Young’s sense of dress? How does everyone feel about the whole buckskin and fringe jacket he has been rocking on T.V.. Now I know he is trying to work the whole aboriginal angle, but do you think that Neil Young thinks he is “blending” with the aboriginal community with his clothing choice ? Do you think that his thought process is “buckskin” is what “aboriginals” wear in “Canada”. Now we live in an area with a decent sized aboriginal population and a reserve up the highway to the north, and Neil I am sorry to say if that is your intent you have it so wrong, if you want to blend buy a hoody and a pair of jeans. Lose the buckskin, we aren’t living in a Lone Ranger movie up here in CANADA.)

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Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo

( link to Cuddy comment )

I find it incredibly ironic to be writing this post as only a week ago I wrote a glowing blog post about the Blue Rodeo concert held in Red Deer, Alberta. Yes I was at that concert and it was good. Remember that concert Jim? The one where you commented on the security guard doing chin ups and that he was nicely silhouetted (just a little reference that will confirm I was actually there if Mr. Cuddy happens to come across this blog post). Now Mr. Cuddy does actually live in Canada which gives some validation in having an opinion compared to Neil Young. Mr. Cuddy is also on a cross-Canada tour with his band Blue Rodeo. Yes indeedy all the way from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Anyone ever look at a map of Canada? This country is pretty big. Did you know that sometimes our country, Canada, actually takes up two whole pages in an atlas. Shocking. Want to know something even more shocking? That bus that Mr.Cuddy and his gang will be travelling on will be running on fossil fuels. FOSSIL FUEL kids …..FOSSIL FUEL. So this gentleman who decided to jump on the “Neil Young Bandwagon” of “bad fossil fuel production, evil, evil oil sands” is actually burning a massive amount of fossil fuels touring this country with his band all with the sole goal of filling his own pockets with cash. Ahem. Yep. This is a pretty big freaking country and Blue Rodeo is going to burn how many thousands of gallons (sorry, litres…metric eh?) of gas touring the country? This guy thinks he has the right to speak out against the oil sands and say they are “visually grotesque” yet burn up fossil fuel as he travels the country to promote his own fame and fortune?  What a crock of s**** (come on, I live in Alberta, we have cows here too ya know!)

Mr. Cuddy, sorry to say that no matter how well you play the harmonica you and your band are part of the problem. Your are using up a ridiculous amount of resources to tour with your band. If you are going to open your trap about your opinion on the Alberta energy sector you better be walking the talk. Tour ACROSS CANADA  is not “walking the talk”, you sir are using up a massive amount of resources and if you continue to use the resources in such a trivial way production in the oil sands needs to be increased and thus the whole of the production area expanded.

Ever hear the phrase “biting the hand that feeds you”? Pretty common phrase. Mr. Cuddy relies on “fans” to download albums, buy CD’s, attend concerts, buy t-shirts, etc. to make a living. It would be, in my opinion, Mr. Cuddy’s best interest to not offend the demographic that listens to his music. Now at the January 9th Blue Rodeo concert in Red Deer, Alberta it may just have been in Mr. Cuddy’s best interest to walk out the door of the Enmax Centrium and take a three second look at the parking lot. That three second look would have told Mr. Cuddy exactly the demographic that will pay for his music and his concerts. In three seconds Mr. Cuddy would have seen….truck…truck…truck….truck….truck…truckity truck truck truck. Not little trucks. Big “kick you ass” trucks. Mr. Cuddy would have then possibly thought “What buys these trucks?” The answer would be one simple word. OIL. Mr. Cuddy, like it or not, your audience is employed by the energy sector that you feel is so dirty and nasty. Every freaking dollar you took as profit from that concert came from the oil sands either directly or indirectly. Economies work on a trickle down effect. When the patch is booming so is EVERY other aspect of the economy. Oil money pays for houses, groceries, music lessons, a double-double at Tim Hortons and CONCERT TICKETS. By condemning the industry at Fort. McMurray you are biting the hand that feeds you.

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Statements and Approaches

I am going to begin by pasting Mr. Cuddy’s statement from http://www.bluerodeo.com  as it was his comment that prompted me to write this. In my opinion Neil Young has no credibility as he doesn’t even live in our country.


January 17, 2014 | « back

Jim Cuddy Issues Statement in Support of Neil Young

I believe that Neil Young is brave and articulate and very well informed about the oil sands.

Right now, Canada is at a crossroads between economics and the environment and we need to make a very, very brave choice. How much revenue are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that we have clean water, clean air and good health for the people and the planet?

To clarify, I was asked about the town of Fort McMurray, not the oil sands. My comments regarding the exaggeration of the conditions there were about Fort McMurray. The oil sands are as visually grotesque as described. Fort McMurray, on the other hand, is a thriving town whose people are directly affected by the issue of the expansion of the oil sands.

This is not a trivial issue and it is not a time for the media to do anything but provide clarity. This is an issue that is vital to all of our best interests. It is essential that we have an open dialogue about it and we force our government to listen.

Musicians and other celebrities do love the media. Everyone knows this. I do however wonder what inspired Jim Cuddy to write the statement above. Both of these musicians have taken the approach to use their popularity to be publicly  scathing of one of the largest industries in Alberta. Mr. Cuddy however is also about to receive the Order of Canada so one would expect him to have a bit more thought and a bit more tact.Class even.  It is very easy to be negative about a situation. It is easy to say bad things about the oil sands. It is easy to say they are “visually grotesque”. Easy does nothing. Easy isn’t a fix. Mr. Cuddy’s statement of  “It is essential that we have an open dialogue about it and we force our government to listen.” is pure babble. It is a P.R. line.

Mr. Cuddy , if you truly believe there is a problem get something done, don’t just talk about it. If you have an opinion that there is a problem, it is only a complaint unless you can offer a hint of a solution along side. So let’s start here. This is the point in the blog where I stop bitching about Mr. Cuddy’s statement and point to where focus should be put.

In  2011, Alberta exported about 1.3 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude oil to the United States (U.S.), supplying  15 percent of U.S. crude oil imports, or 7 percent of U.S. oil demand.  Total oil consumption for U.S. in  2011 was  18.9 million bbl/d.  Canada as a whole exported 2.23 million bbl/d of crude oil to the U.S., or about  25 percent of the U.S. total crude oil imports in 2011. link

Look at the above quote. If you want to stop expansion and lessen production this is the first place to start. Stop shipping to the U.S.A. . Quit feeding the American desire for fuel . Mr. Cuddy, this is where you take Mr. Young aside and say “if you truly believe this, you need to convince your countrymen to cut back their consumption by 7%”. If Mr. Young campaigned down in the U.S.A. and reduced the hunger for oil , there would not be the demand , and therefore no need for expansion of the oil sands.

October Sunset, Alberta, Canada

Now this leads us to problem number two. A decrease in production means a decrease in employment and a decrease in revenue and the trickle down effect throughout the economy. This is not an “Alberta only” problem. First of all, unemployment would affect the whole country, less contributing to income based taxes, a larger population claiming E.I. benefits, to keep everything ticking over taxes would have to increase. Can our country as a whole take the strain? Lowering production doesn’t just affect a few oil workers in Alberta, it will affect the whole country. What happens when Alberta goes from being a “have” province to a “have not”? Again are citizens of every other province willing to take on the sacrifice? Are you willing to have your own children paying 50% or more in income taxes just to keep the country running? What do you want their financial out look to be? Things to consider.

Let’s look at another statistic, this is the statistic for “Shadow Population” and specifically for the “Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo”.

Shadow Population

means, the temporary residents of a municipality who are employed by an
industrial or commercial establishment in the municipality
,for a minimum of 30 days within a municipal census year
The “Shadow Population” for this area breaks down as 1,755 for the urban area and 39,796 for the rural service area for a total of 41,551 people. Now I am going to break this down in plain English. There are 41,551 people from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan…..pick a province, shipping themselves in to Fort McMurray to make a living to ship money back to their home province for their families to live. To feed their families and clothe their children and pay their rent or mortgage. I’ve known some of these families, the men usually have a wife and at least two children. The shadow population dependent on income earned  in the Fort McMurray area is in actual fact more like 166,204 (based on worker, spouse, 2 children), and this is money directly supporting the economies of provinces OTHER than Alberta. Can these provinces afford the loss?
Tough stuff. And to think a lot of celebrities come off sounding like the whole operation should be shut down. Imagine that devastation. Let’s look at this statistic next:
So if we shut down the oil sands how do we survive? We have a massive country where goods need to be transported coast to coast. We have a cold country and use fuel for heat. Even electricity in Alberta is coming from burning coal, we have huge mines out by our cabin. Being an activist is easy, finding a solution is not.
Here are a few more statistics of interest (link) :

About 10 per cent of the oil sands workforce is Aboriginal.

In 2011, the value of contracts between oil sands companies and Aboriginal companies was over $1 billion.

How do Neil Young’s aboriginal acquaintances feel about a $1 billion loss? You should really ask him.

I could continue to throw out statistics showing beneficial aspects of the oil sands to Canadians, but I am going to cut to the chase as I am already nearing 3000 words.
snowy sunset over lake isle, alberta, canada
The FiX
Here’s the deal. If you don’t like what is going on and complain you’d better have at least a start to a solution. So here are a few thoughts:
1. Get on the government’s case to make green renewable energy affordable and available to the masses. We are burning coal in Alberta to make electricity. Why? We have sun. We have wind. But solar and wind power is too expensive for the average Canadian to install in their homes. We looked briefly at retrofitting our 800 square foot cabin. It would have taken us 20 years to break even on the investment. So we shelved the idea. Imagine the positive environmental impact of town after town running heat and power on sun and wind. The technology is there but the government is going to have to step up to the plate and make it affordable and accessible. It needs to become the norm and not a trendy oddity. Someone with a celebrity name could push for this. You could push for a fix. An ordinary person just comes off as a crazy tree hugger.
2. If you are going to push for lack of expansion of the oil sands or a decrease in production you had better have an industry for the men and women to work in. Here’s the thing, for Canada to continue running we need the resource of energy in some shape or form. Even man in its most primitive form used fires made from burning wood for heat and to cook on. Energy, fuel, whatever you want to call it , is a basic human need. So keep these men and women of the oil sands in the energy sector, but a new energy sector. Start new divisions within the same corporations running the oil sands projects to create the components for clean energy. Retrain. Create a new industry up in Fort McMurray creating en mass the components for wind power and solar, plus all the technicians needed to keep the systems running. Mr. Cuddy, you are about to have the Order of Canada, you can start to push for clean energy to take over .
snowy sunset over lake isle, alberta, canada
Realistically a certain portion of Canada will have to have some dependence on the oil industry for the foreseeable future. Electric vehicles are fine for singles and couples, but not for a family…..well at least my family with 5 kids. I have trouble imagining an electric semi truck going over the Rogers Pass fully loaded. Before being openly critical one should think of how far-reaching the situation is. Instead of shouting out to the media that the oil sands are “visually grotesque”, stop and think about the negotiables and non-negotiables. The negotiables are we CAN put green energy in our homes, the technology is there, we just need government to create a situation where the price point is affordable to all Canadians. The non-negotiables are we do need fossil fuels to move goods and people from “point A” to “point B” across this vast country, and we need employment for those working at Fort McMurray; we cannot have a situation that puts these men and women out of work.
If celebrities want to have a voice fine, but use your voice for POSITIVE ACTION rather than a complaint to the media in hopes of just some additional press.

Blue Rodeo Concert – Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

I thought it might be nice to switch it up and do a blog post that didn’t involve snow (that will be tomorrow!), the latest dye pot experiment or an update on one of my “slower-than-molasses-in-January” fibre art projects. I thought it would be fun to share a few pics of the Blue Rodeo / Devin Cuddy Band concert from Thursday (January 9, 2014), held at The Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta. I’m not going to do a proper “review”, just an informal chat about our evening out.

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The Devin Cuddy Band

After feeding the kids chocolate cupcakes coated with heaps of very sweet icing we dropped the kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and headed to The Centrium (good plan eh!!). The crowd at the Centrium was quite an eclectic mix and gradually filled the seats as start time for the concert approached. The Devin Cuddy Band was first up. Bluesy with great piano work, he put on a fabulous show, so fabulous that we came home and downloaded the album immediately. The Devin Cuddy Band is not an ounce like Blue Rodeo but more like gutsy blues with a vintage tinge. You could completely imagine the band with Devin Cuddy on a grand piano and adding an upright bass to the act; that would make the band look as cool as they sound. I love it when we find a new band to follow and this is definitely one to watch.

The Devin Cuddy Band took the stage for about a half hour , and then after a quick intermission we were on to the main act, Blue Rodeo.

(please click on the images to view the gallery…….sorry about the iPhone pics!)

We have seen Blue Rodeo before so we were expecting a pretty good show. The band’s classic hits are a staple on our playlist for our frequent long drives out to the coast. Almost habitually Blue Rodeo is what we listen to from the Great Bear Snowshed  to Langley (BC, Canada); after driving 14…15…16 hours straight (weather depending) their classic songs get us through that last brutal hour and a half in the early hours of the morning. (Okay truthfully I am the only one listening at this stage while everyone else is asleep, but hey, it is quiet without interruptions!)

The band opened with “New Morning Sun”, which is a fabulous song from their new album “In Our Nature” then continued to play pieces from their new album for the first half of the concert. We really like the new album, have listened to it tons and think it is very strong. I loved the story-teller role Greg Keelor took on in between songs, I think it worked well, and his description of the writing of “Paradise” nailed the whole escape to the cabin experience. To quote my husband “The song sure means something now.” (Can you tell we are cabin people?!) The sound was great, as were the lighting and graphics. I think some of the crowd struggled with the new material because they only wanted to hear “the greatest hits”, but they really should give the new material a listen as it is a really strong album. Of course this is Red Deer, can’t expect too much……enough said.

My husband and I had a chat about Blue Rodeo’s choice to play the new album through for the first half of the concert. We felt it was an interesting choice and perhaps not what the bulk of the crowd expected. My husband indicated that it shows how proud the band is of their new album and how they must feel it is really good material. My take on it is that choosing to play through the new material right from the start shows that they were performing the concert to be true artists and not just to play old songs and collect a paycheck. There is definitely merit in that.

The second half opened with “Diamond Mine” and the crowd woke up getting the type of song that they had come to hear. Some of the crowd took to their feet, others were singing along and the applause was significantly louder than during the first half. At this point I may have accidentally completely wrecked the rest of the concert for my husband. I had been watching the crowd and noticed a group of three women to our right dancing. A certain image came directly to mind, and in my normal “say it as you see it” way, mentioned to dearest hubby “Look, they dance like Weebles!”. Truly they did. No kidding, put on a Blue Rodeo song, take a Weeble and give it a little rock and maybe add in a flashlight for ambience and you have a pretty good visual for what was going on. Nothing wrong with it, they were having fun. However this was imagery my husband was not going to get out of his head for the rest of the concert. Of course once you open the “people-watching flood gates” there is no going back……….

The concert continued with hit after hit being played brilliantly. The last time we saw Blue Rodeo it was a quieter, more laid back concert where we came home saying it was very good but perhaps suited a smaller more intimate venue. Thursday’s show was nothing like that. A bigger sound and a ton energy filled the stage. The show held the venue even if it was a hockey barn. This was a band that wanted to clearly be there and give their fans the very best they could. Blue Rodeo invited the Devin Cuddy Band on stage near the end to join them in “Lost Together”. If the sound wasn’t big enough before, with 11 musicians on stage together the sound was huge, and they were clearly enjoying themselves. Last song of the night, around 11 pm, was “What Am I Doing Here” showcasing Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor and some pretty nifty harmonica (you can never have too much harmonica….okay in my opinion every song should definitely have harmonica!). One has to wonder if they are relaying their thoughts having come from the +8C temperatures of the coast and about to tour across the frigid prairies and further. Are they wondering what the heck they are doing touring Canada in the middle of winter? Hope they have good snow tires, that’s all I can say.


Sunshine, Sunflowers and a Song

City Hall Park, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

City Hall Park, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Let me describe today. It is September, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is +30 Celsius outside. Fabulous. I’m in the lucky situation where a lot of the art, textile and photography work I do I am actually able to complete in the evening, this means that on a lovely day like today I am not strapped to a desk , computer or work area, but rather have the opportunity to enjoy the last few days of summer.

ross street patio

This afternoon we headed to downtown Red Deer. All summer there have been performers at the Ross Street Patio on Thursdays at lunch time. We have been down to listen to the music several times, the music is always good and today was no exception. The music was fabulous; Garrett Olson was an amazing talent.

ross street patio

After eating lunch and enjoying the entertainment we decided to do a tour through the gardens at City Hall Park. This park is stunning every single year with flower bed after flower bed of beautiful flowers. We checked out all the blooms. The park was busy with many people enjoying the outdoors as they ate their lunch, read a book or simply  sat taking in the atmosphere. Let’s hope this great weather continues a little while longer!

(Enjoy a virtual tour through City Hall Park by clicking on the images below.)

A little bass please…..

bass This week we had the opportunity to attend “Choir Kids” as two of our children were participating in the event with their school choir. Now I know if any parents are reading this they may have actually cringed at the thought of listening to an evening of children’s choirs, after all we’ve all sat through school concerts of tragically out of tune singing with smiles pasted on our faces, but this was truly different. To be honest, the evening, and the singing, was quite fabulous.

“Choir Kids” is an interesting program where elementary school choirs have the opportunity to rehearse and perform with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra provides a scaled down selection of musicians so that the accompaniment is equally balanced to the volume of the choirs. This was an amazing experience for our children. They performed wonderfully and the teachers who make the choir program possible did a fine job of preparing the choir for the event.

This is the 15th year the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra has presented this event. This event is part of their Education and Outreach programming. The orchestra also welcomes sponsors for events such as this, and their office can be contacted for individuals or businesses who are interested in sponsorship.

I’d like to say “Thanks!” to the orchestra for such a great program and evening; it was truly a memorable experience for our children.