Big shiny dreams

I love the Dum Dum Girls. I don't go out to too many shows any more, but I'm going to see them a week from Saturday. I was blown away by their debut album, I Will Be. I'm a sucker for lo-fi pop, especially made by women, and this was a wonderful example of it. If anything, I loved the EP He Gets Me High even more. There was clearly a shift in direction, a little higher-fi, a little more pop, but the result was strong. The songs stick in my head, and I think their cover of the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" is brilliant, better than the original.

So I really want to like Only in Dreams, the album I downloaded just yesterday. And I do like it. The shift perceived on He Gets Me High is more pronounced here. Dee Dee Penny's (Kristen Gundrud) voice sounds great, and it's mixed right up front. The messy guitars are pushed into the background. The playing is tight, the sound is big and shiny. One of the album's producers was Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, another of my favourite bands, and I can hear his influence.

This is only my first listen. I'm definitely enjoying it. But am I really impressed by the songwriting? With the first single, "Your Bedroom Eyes," maybe. But on this listen, the rest is enjoyable but not more. Here's the thing. You can get away with less than first-rate songwriting if you have a distinctive sound. That's what I got from I Will Be—good songs and a catchy sound. The album ran on the great energy the band produced. But when you back off the noisy guitars and dive headlong into pop music, you'd better write some really, really good stuff. That's what I hear when I listen to a Raveonettes album—lots of songs that stay with me. Here I'm hearing good songs. Heartfelt songs to be sure—Penny lost her mother to cancer, and that subject shows up in more than one song. But great songs? Distinctive songs? I'm not so sure.

I will listen some more. I bet I will be dancing up a storm at their show. And sometimes seeing a band live can make a difference in how you hear their recordings. So we shall see. I needed to hear this album, but maybe I should have saved a little of this month's eMusic allowance for the new album from Veronica Falls. That is really intriguing!


No bigger than a bread box

Bread Box—that's the name of our rather old Toastmaster bread maker. It had been stashed away for a long time, certainly for the 10 years that we've lived in this house. I used it enthusiastically when we first got it, but then stopped for one main reason: the size and shape of the loaf it makes. It's one of those models in which the bread "pan" is actually vertical. I think all the older bread makers were like that. It makes a really broad loaf with a rounded crust on one end. The slices are quite large.

I dragged it upstairs as part of my quest for more variety in my cooking. I figured I'd get restarted on bread making with a simple honey whole wheat recipe I found at allrecipes.com. It came out pretty decent. But still, there are those huge slices.

What I really want to do is get back to making bread by hand. It's time-consuming but more satisfying than making bread in a machine. You get the feel of the dough in your hands. You get exercise kneading! And you bake the loaves in normal bread pans that make normal-looking loaves which you can cut into slices that aren't huge.

One problem is my habit of finding recipes on the interwebs. Just try to find one that doesn't end in "place ingredients in pan in the order specified by your bread machine instructions." Manual bread recipes exist, of course. It's just hard to zero in on those and eliminate the more-numerous machine recipes. I might have to look in an actual recipe book! It's not like I don't have plenty, including those with bread recipes.

One of the good things about online recipes is the feedback that others provide. Good old Web 2.0! Someone will comment that a recipe works particularly well. Another might say that this or that adjustment improved the result. Recipes in book presumably are tested before publication, but there's nothing like input from actual "users."

So I will be searching for more bread recipes, especially whole-grain or nearly whole-grain. And maybe occasionally a white bread recipe, such as for a baguette. I should try to get some sourdough starter going too. It's winter. It's time not only for soup, but also for the bread to go with it.

This honey wheat bread is tasty!


Arigato, fishy taco

I love to cook. I love to create dishes. I do what I do pretty well. But I get stuck in ruts. I add new recipes from time to time, but not nearly as many as I should. We need more variety! And I need a wider variety of experience.

So I've decided to try to make one new dish a week. It doesn't have to be complicated. Just something that's not part of the all-too-regular menu.

Last night, I made fish tacos. We've been making tacos lately out of refried beans and Yves "ground round," but I wanted to branch out. Sweetie loves fish tacos.

I had bought some halibut cheeks at the fish store. Halibut is a local fish for us. Fillets and steaks are expensive even so, but halibut cheeks not so much. The cheeks are small pieces that come from the head area of the large fish, very tasty and with no pin bones. They cost very little more than other fish I might have bought, such as cod or tilapia. And the pieces were already the right size for tacos.

Since fish tacos are usually soft tacos, I found some medium-size whole-grain tortillas. I like to stay away from "white" when I can. We had some purple cabbage left over from the last time we had tacos. The darned stuff keeps forever in the crisper! I had also bought some nice tomatoes at the farmers market, and I got some jack cheese for topping as well.

I almost never deep fry. I don't have a deep fryer. But I have a fairly deep skillet, and I figured I could shallow fry the fish without using too much oil. Since I almost never deep fry, I wasn't sure what to use for a coating. I had thought about using thinned yogurt and panko or flour, like for catfish, but that didn't seem quite right. I thought of tempura. Even though these were tacos, I figured that might work quite well. So I went on the web and found a simple tempura better recipe. Dead simple! I had no idea.

I beat an egg. I added a cup of ice water and then sifted in a cup of white flour (sometimes you need white). I used a small whisk to mix it briefly, since you don't want to develop the gluten in the flour. I dipped the fish in the batter and set the pieces into the hot oil. Easy peasy! When the fish was done, I drained the pieces on paper towels and assembled the tacos. The fish was delicately crunchy, and the whole thing tasted quite good.

There are some things I have to remember for next time. I hadn't seasoned the fish pieces before I dipped them in batter. Maybe what I need to do is add seasoning to the batter. There are variations on tempura, and other batters I could use (such as beer batter). The fish tasted fine, but could have used a bit of seasoning. Perhaps more importantly, I need to make a spicy remoulade! Not being the fish taco eater in the family, I hadn't realized that the salsa you put on other tacos isn't really the right stuff for these. It worked OK, but a spicy remoulade would have been better. I mean, duh—tartar sauce with fish!

But I really liked the combination of crispy tempura in a taco. There is a lot of Mexican-Asian fusion going on right now. Maybe I should get more into that. Kimchi tacos are all the rage around here.

This was just a humble beginning to my project. Since the weather has turned cooler, I really want to expand my winter comfort food selection. I make a vegetarian minestrone, a black bean soup, a lentil soup, and a chick pea curry (with broccoli and yams), but I'd like to make more kinds of soups. With both of us often busy, having soup around with some nice bread or rolls is a good idea for winter. And that hints at another part of my project—bread baking. It's been a long time.

If I really get this going, I might need another blog! But really, I see a blog like my friend Vanessa's Groo-V Foody and I know I have a long way to go.


Think globally, buy locally

You get what you pay for. Also known as "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

I'm a big proponent of thinking globally and buying locally. I favour clothes that are designed and made in Canada or the United States.

I'm not protectionist. I'm down with comparative advantage. If some country can make the same item at the same quality for less, then they deserve the business. I am, however, in favour of fair wages and progressive labour laws. And I'm in favour of quality over quantity.

If I buy a top that costs, say, $10, I assume a few things about it. One is that it won't last long. There are exceptions, but in general I've found that the less you pay, the less wear you get. Another is that every previous step in the manufacturing and distribution process costs even less, with the actual garment worker making the least of all. The retailer certainly makes a profit. The wholesaler does as well. If something costs so little, who gets most squeezed? The one who actually made the item.

I don't want to buy a cheap top at the expense of some poor woman who is struggling to feed her family and possibly lives under a repressive government.

I understand that not everyone can afford to buy from local designers who sell clothes made in Canada from sustainable materials. I realize that I'm fortunate that way. But here's what happens. You don't have much money, so you shop at WalMart. WalMart, more than any other retailer, has cut costs all the way through the supply chain so that they can sell for less and still make huge profits. But why don't you have much money? One big reason is WalMart and stores like it. In squeezing out maximum savings, they have also squeezed out jobs and local stores and depressed wages. WalMart creates a predatory cycle whereby people can no longer afford to shop at stores other than WalMart. Worse, its own underpaid employees with few or no benefits often can't even afford to shop there! It's off to the Sally Ann for them.

Seriously, do you want to perpetuate such a cycle? It's called a race to the bottom. The only winners are the Walton family.

It's not just WalMart, of course, but WalMart led the way. The reason WalMart, Target, Kohls, and others can sell at such low prices isn't just greater efficiency or volume. It's because someone in the supply chain is being squeezed. There's really no way around it.

I realize that it's not good to virtually boycott clothing from other countries. Low-wage countries become higher-wage countries only if they can sell the goods they make. I'm just choosy about the labels. I'm not that fond of "Fabriqué en Chine," but Central American countries, India, Turkey, and even Bangladesh are a different story. I don't know for sure that the conditions where those goods are made are any better or that workers are better off, but I hope they can improve their lot over time.

My strategy also doesn't work for shoes. I don't think anyone makes shoes in North America anymore. I love Italian shoes, but I can't spend that kind of money for the shoes I wear all the time. So I know my lovely Nine West shoes are made in China, and I'm stuck with that.

That's something that bugs me about offshore manufacturing in general. Nine West shoes are expensive. All designer clothes, shoes, and accessories are expensive. But are they made in higher wage countries? Rarely. That means someone is benefiting from a huge markup. I would rather that local designers, especially those using sustainable materials, earn a legitimate profit from me than to allow Versace or Coach to gouge me. The price of New Balance runners stayed the same when they stopped making shoes in the US and started making them in China. Curious, eh?

Time well wasted

I was thinking that I might give this cycle of America's Next Top Model a miss. I'm kind of busy. I'm not watching much television at all right now. But last night, Sweetie and I caught up with the premiere episode online. Give it a miss? Who am I trying to kid? I live vicariously through ANTM!

Tyra Banks is always trying to keep the show fresh. The current Cycle 17 is an "all-star" competition. She has brought back models from previous cycles who did not win their cycle. She said these women were fan favourites, but I know that for us anyway, Angelea and Alexandria were more like "love to hate" than "love."

We weren't watching ANTM from the beginning. In fact, we didn't start until Cycle 11, so there are a lot of models in this cycle with whom we are not familiar. But that's just like any other cycle. You get to know them pretty quickly. I'm cheering for Isis from Cycle 11, sweet little Laura from Cycle 14, and Kayla from Cycle 15, who I thought should have been in the top two over Chelsey. I also get a good first impression of Bre from Cycle 5 and Bianca from Cycle 9. I'm sure things will change as the season moves along.

This format makes for some interesting differences. One is that most of the models are working in the business. And some are well past the age when we usually see models on ANTM, who normally are just starting out. Camille from Cycle 2 is the oldest at 33, competing against models who are still in their early 20s. Tyra is also going for a kind of "full package" for this cycle. It's not just about photos, personality, and being able to do a commercial. The models will also be doing things like designing their own fragrance. The idea is to create a total brand around yourself.

Some things don't change. Alexandria, who seems to have a total lack of self-awareness and thinks every problem she has is someone else's fault, found herself in the bottom two right off the bat. She just didn't take a very good photo. At least she didn't try to control the shoot! But I'm glad she wasn't eliminated yet. She's too much fun. I was glad to see Brittany go. She looked like a Miss America contestant to me.

More fun on Wednesday! And it's nice that we have the option of catching full episodes online in case we're busy and still haven't figured out our PVR by then.


Trending and spending

The Fashionistas, the Meetup group I took over, has come back to life. At least I hope so. On Friday night, three of us (OK, that included Sweetie, my guest) met up at Heritage Hall for the first night of Spend on Trend. And we had a blast!

Spend on Trend is a yearly event in Vancouver that allows local, independent designers of clothing, jewellery, and accessories to sell their wares and win new customers. It had been three years since Sweetie and I had attended the show, back when it was in the basement of the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Our first stop was at Schaart Clothing Co., a label with which we were familiar from items we had seen (and bought) at Planet Claire Sustainable Fashion (now sadly defunct except for occasional pop-up events). One of the great things about Schaart is right on her label: "Sizes 2 to 24." Designer Cheryl Densky wants to make sure women of all sizes can wear beautiful clothing. Sweetie bought a work dress for fall. I bought a white-with-black-pattern skirt (lined and heavy enough for fall) for a really nice price.

I was totally drawn in by Piknic Designs. I bought a slinky bluejean-blue half-sleeve dress with a beautiful crane design on the front. Definitely not for work! But it's already a favourite. I'm pretty sure I will be back for more—at least if I start going to the gym again!

(I don't like the picture, but Sweetie says it's OK. I should just learn to pose, right?)

Around the corner, Carla Swope Jewels brought us to a halt. She makes absolutely stunning pieces from ammonite fossils and several kinds of rough-cut stones. Sweetie was won over by a beautiful ammonite necklace. I was about to leave when a Swarovsky crystal heart-shaped necklace caught my eye—literally. Like a bird, I couldn't resist the shiny thing! Check out her website, which has a link to an excellent Flickr display. Her work is wonderfully inventive!

Revival Ink was our next stop. The company is based in Seattle, and we have a Revival Ink skirt, black with red koi, that we bought at Bumbershoot a couple years ago. This time, T found a great light wrap sweater, and Sweetie went for a blue-grey fleece with an octopus printed on it. Of course!

We were doing plenty of looking without buying as well. There was lots of nice jewellery and some very cute handbags. How can you resist at least looking at jewellery from a company called Toodlebunny? We stopped at Elroy, a hot local designer, so I could try on a cute autumn jacket. Unfortunately, in outerwear I am often size 12, not 10, and her sizes stopped at 10. I tried on the jacket, but it was too small.

We swung back around for one last pass through the hall. T wanted to stop at Salts Organic Clothing, where she tried on and bought a lovely blue dress and a top in a similar colour. They both look great on her.

Salts was right next to Bronsino Designs. We had already touched the beautiful Italian leather shoulder bag on the first pass, but of course it was very expensive. A small black shoulder bag caught my eye, and then a greyish version that I liked even better. And Sweetie says, "You've been looking for a small bag"—one for going dancing to replace one I'd mistakenly left behind at a hotel. And the woman running the booth says, "This one is a second. I could give you 30 percent off." She showed me the small flaws on the stitching inside the flap, which were nothing. And so, for my first time (no Coach in this house), I bought an expensive purse. Genuine leather that I must keep out of the rain! But I love it.

The three of us were peckish by the time we were done, and there was no shortage of places to eat. However, on Friday night without a reservation, it wouldn't be quick. Burgoo had more of a lineup than we fancied. We walked up to my favourite Public Lounge Eatery, where the owner remembered me. Man, was I impressed! It's true I did show up three times within two weeks, but that was quite a while ago. Unfortunately, they were full as well, with people already waiting. We went across the street to Latitude, where they quickly found us seats at the bar until a booth opened up. Latitude serves mostly Latin American tapas, which fit the bill for all of us. The chalkboard above the bar was impressive. I had no idea there were that many kinds of tequilla!

Even if you can't get to Spend on Trend, check out the links. Some vendors have studios, and others sell through stores such as the Barefoot Contessa.


Where is my mind?

Last night, I was out to dinner with a small Meetup group. I had a very pleasant evening—good food, good beer, good company. When I went, I was carrying, in addition to my purse, a cloth bag with a library book in it, which was my public transit reading. I had hooked both my purse and the bag over the corner of the chair. When I left, somehow I had only my purse. The cloth bag and its contents are safe, just not yet with me where they need to be.

Saturday night, I went out to dinner with friends in Aldergrove, a 50 minute drive from home. That was a lovely time as well. Somehow, I managed to leave my credit card behind. The only possible excuse was that it matched the table top. On Sunday, I had to make the round trip again when I wish I had been lying out on the beach on the last summer day of the year. (At least I filled the tank for a decent price—there's making lemonade out of lemons for you!)

There is a concept in Buddhism called mindfulness. Right Mindfulness is the seventh of the factors of enlightenment known as the Eightfold Path. Mindfulness involves living consciously, with full awareness of one's surroundings. To be mindful, one must be fully present in time and space.

I'm not a Buddhist (I definitely have not forsworn either intoxicants or meat), but I incorporate many Buddhist teachings into my personal philosophy. I had thought I had made great progress toward greater mindfulness in my life, something I consider to be very important. When one is fully present, one is present both to oneself and to others, and that's how I want to be. Lack of mindfulness slights not only others but ourselves as well. Living semi-consciously is not really living at all.

I don't know what is leading to my recent lack of mindfulness. Lest you think it's just age and creeping dementia, this is not forgetfulness. My memory is actually better than it used to be. Carelessness is what it is. It's being in the next moment or a past moment, not the present moment. It's moving too quickly without sufficient thought.

Was I in a hurry on either night? No. There really was no reason for me to be so unmindful. And I need to fix this, if only for practical reasons, such as not having to make special trips to retrieve forgotten items.

Sweetie suggested doing a brief mindfulness meditation that I believe she does with her students. It's definitely worth a try. Meanwhile, I might also need to figure out if something is disturbing the equilibrium.

Last week at my company, three people I know (and some number of others whom I don't know) were laid off. One is a colleague with whom I've worked closely for many years. Part of the reason he is being let go is that the systems we work on are being replaced. That's been a long time coming, and it's still coming slowly, but more and more products are running on the new system. The writing is on the wall. Much as I am tired of the isolation of working from home, and much as I very likely need to find new opportunities for my own mental well-being, it will be hard to lose my salary all at once, even if the severance is good.

See, that's not even happening now, and yet my attention has been pulled to the future rather than the present. Not that I don't need to prepare for the eventuality of needing a new job (too early to retire yet). And I am. But therein lies another potential balance upset.

I'm working toward a certificate in technical writing. It's not that I couldn't get technical writing gigs without it. I've done it before. I have experience and lots of knowledge of the computer industry. But I want to make sure that I fill any gaps in my knowledge. As well, it's important for me to have a sense of my own competence before I do something. And finally, I'd like to have a piece of paper from BCIT to back up my claim that I know what I'm doing. It's a good plan to keep me working in a related field, and one in which I can make OK money, even if nothing like I make now.

Trouble is, my heart isn't really in it. I'm not sure where my heart is at this point when it comes to work, other than continuing what I'm doing as long as it lasts. I got my counselling certificate and thought I was going to go to grad school, but my heart wasn't really into that either (even though I thought it was for a while, and maybe it will be again). I will only ever be playing music for fun. I don't think there's a path for me to find work in the fashion industry. So I'm doing the "good idea" and "ought to" rather than "for love." And I'm bad at "ought to."

Still, once I start classes again, I'll probably be fine. And who knows. When the big layoff comes, maybe I'll get my Food Safe and go to culinary school for a year. I would probably enjoy every minute of it. If only the United States had decent health care, I could think of a lot worse things than retiring to Hanalei, Hawaii, and opening a food shack—or even something more ambitious. Stranger things have happened.

Embedding not allowed for this relevant and most excellent video from the Pixies.


Je me souviens

Remembering that thousands of people were murdered that day. Blotting out those who murdered them.

Remembering being awakened by my alarm clock at 6 o'clock to the news on CBC radio and the announcer saying that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. I don't think I heard "World Trade Center." In my groggy state, I thought someone had flown a small plane into a building.

Remembering getting an email from a colleague about what happened. Working remotely, not listening to the radio, I didn't know anything serious had happened until about 8:30. I spent the rest of the day watching TV in disbelief and shock.

Remembering worrying about friends who lived in lower Manhattan. Remembering the relief of learning they were OK.

Remembering having to fly to the United States shortly after the attacks. Remembering soldiers on duty at the airport where we changed planes and at our destination. Remembering the beginning of more stringent security.

Remembering how low-key crossing the border by car into the US used to be. Remembering how low-key crossing the border back into Canada used to be.

Remembering when some of the security measures would never have been tolerated. Remembering when civil liberties mattered to more people.

Remembering when there was less anger. Remembering when there was less fear.


A farewell to limbs

I work at home. My desk is near a window that looks out onto the street. The Pacific Dogwood is now tall enough that it's part of my view. And at the corner of the lot across the street stood a large cherry tree of some kind.

I say "stood" because it was cut down today. Across the street looks so different now. Naked. Two large firs and the cherry are gone. Now my view consists of the house of my neighbours diagonally across the street.

It was a wonderful tree. I would watch it bud and leaf in the spring. It was quite lovely all summer. And in the autumn, it was one of the few trees that would turn a colour other than yellow. In a good year, it would display several different colours. I wish I had a picture of that. Instead, I only have one that I snapped quickly this morning out my window when I saw the tree guys arrive. (The eye focuses past those wires better than the camera does.)

I knew that tree was doomed and would be removed eventually. As beautiful as it was, it was also a problem. It had been planted however many years ago at the corner of a raised lot, above a retaining wall and next to a driveway that is a couple of feet lower than the main lot. The tree's roots were basically destroying the driveway. I would watch my neighbour's car bump into the driveway every time. The situation was only getting worse.

Even so, I teared up when I saw they really were going to take the cherry after the two firs. I'm tearing up as I write this. I know it was a problem, but it was so lovely to look at. And I hate when any healthy tree is cut down.


Trending toward autumn

We're having a lovely bit of late summer right now, but of course every store (that's not still clearing out summer items) and fashion magazine or section is well into fall. I'm always sad to say goodbye to light summerwear and strappy sandals, especially since we've had so little time to wear them this year, but I think every season has its charms.

I'm not a trend-follower, but I'm always interested to see what's going on that's new (or "new" again), because sometimes I'll be reminded of a look that works for me that I wasn't thinking of.

Plum, my go-to store, is featuring several trends for fall in its blog No Guru. A pop of red? I can go for that. Most reds work well for me. The only ones I tend to avoid are dark reds, which always strike me as being "heavy" colours. How about layering jewellery? I used to make fun of Sweetie for wearing bracelets with her watch, but now I can't. She was ahead of the curve! A classic white blouse is something I can get behind, although I lean toward white pullover tops rather than button-down. Colour blocking is something the fashion mags have been trying to push for a while. For me, it works when it works and looks disastrous when it doesn't. Just have to experiment, I guess! And finally, leopard print. Srsly? Can't this just go away forever and not periodically rear its ugly, tacky head? Apparently not.

Plum also cited a trend earlier: maxi skirts. Ah, just like in the recession of the 1970s. Money and confidence go down, and hemlines follow. But I'm really OK with longer skirts. What else can you wear fitted calf boots with, except perhaps skinny jeans or leggings?

The Globe and Mail made a list of 10 trends for fall. Plaid? Well, maybe. I've seen plaid that I like, and depending on your age and/or cheekiness, a plaid skirt can look really good. But in general, I'm not a huge fan of teh tartan. Clashing patterns I can definitely do without. Even the photos they used to illustrate the trend look ugly. Polka dots seem to be a favourite trend. Maybe I should be more adventurous, eh? Just not ugly! The Globe's fall colour isn't red, but rather marigold. I'm pretty sure any bright yellow isn't for me, even now when I have a bit of a tan.

I'm skipping the rest. White collars? Graphic lines? Paillettes? Somehow I don't think these are going to influence my wardrobe. Same for Western looks and tuxedos. The retro decades seem to be the 1970s and 1940s. Plum's maxi skirt trend is certainly '70s. And touches of truly classic styles are fine with me!

Local weekly WE (Westender) was more egalitarian, with list of five trends for both men and women. I'll let men pay attention (or, more likely, not) to the men's trends. WE's lead-off trend comes from the Mad Men collection at Banana Republic. Now, much as I love the show, and even like some of the clothes, I think a straight-up Mad Men look will take you to a costume or theme party but little else. Incorporating 1960s design, on the other hand, is something I do love. The tuxedo look is also on this list. And the colour here is orange, a colour that sometimes works for me. More than bright yellow anyway! Polka dots also make an appearance on this list, as do paillettes and rich fabrics.

Finally, the Georgia Straight gives us four more style trends. I'm pretty neutral on pleated pants. Considering that my wardrobe is short of pants that aren't jeans, maybe I should see what's actually out there, pleats or no. The Straight also goes with the white blouse. Then we come to two trends that fit me well. One is the tunic dress. Dress, cute tights or leggings, belt or no belt, I'm there. And finally, I was actually ahead of the curve on ponchos. I've been wearing my pinky-purple reused wool poncho from Twigg and Hottie since last December! But I wouldn't mind another in a more neutral colour. Or a shawl. I know a Chloe Angus Design button wrap is in a closet somewhere!



Sunday was Sweetie's and my day for Bumbershoot, Seattle's Music & Arts Festival. No bumbershoots were needed this weekend! The sky was so clear that you could even see The Mountain, a.k.a., Mount Rainier. But it never got as hot as had been predicted, which was good.

Despite the gorgeous weather, we began our day indoors. Or rather, in a lineup to get into the Bagley Wright Theater. First up for us was Kristin Hersh. She did a show based on her memoir Rat Girl (which both of us loved). She did readings from the book interspersed with songs (of the period, I think). I was captivated! A lot of people seem to use humour to distance themselves, and their readers, from sometimes painful reality. For Hersh, humour provides no distance. I was so touched that she basically stood naked and vulnerable in front of us, sharing her story. It was powerful. If my day had ended right there, I would have felt I'd gotten my money's worth.

There was much more to come, however. The theatre is cleared between acts, so we went outside to see what was next on our list. And very quickly we found ourselves back in the very same lineup, although somewhat farther back. This was to see the Trey McIntyre Project, a contemporary dance troupe from Boise, Idaho (srsly). They performed two long-form pieces. The first was called "Oh, Inverted World" and was based on music by The Shins. It was gorgeous! I just wish I hadn't been fighting to keep my eyes open—a combination of The Shins' music (beautiful but mellow) and a bit too much time in a darkened theatre (second show in a row—should have re-caffeinated). The second piece was called "The Sweeter End," with music by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The dancing was wonderful, and the choreography very inventive.

After the dance show, we took a bit of a shopping break. Sweetie found a beautiful bracelet to match a blue dress that she bought in Hawaii. And it matches many other items she owns. We wandered from the market section over to the Fountain Stage, where we saw part of a set by Thee Oh Seas, originally from San Francisco. Two drummers, no bass player, and a weird looking electric 12-string! They've been around since 1997, but they were new to me.

We wandered off in search of food. The festival layout is a bit different than in past years, and some things weren't in their usual spot (we didn't find the Ballard Bros., purveyors of awesome blackened salmon burgers, until we were leaving the grounds). We split a halibut taco with garlic fries, since we were really more peckish than hungry. Good stuff!

The chronology gets a bit confused at this point. I know we went by some more vendor booths. I bought a really cute short T-shirt dress, "made in Portland, Oregon." They were also selling these cute black panties with glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on them, Sweetie bought a pair. And that must have been when there was a bit of a lull in our schedule and we took a break. We got stamped and walked up Mercer into Queen Anne. We paid a visit to Easy Street Records, a very cool store. I bought some used PJ Harvey CDs. Sweetie went for Throwing Muses (with Kristin Hersh in mind). Then we walked across the street to T.S. McHugh's Irish Pub & Restaurant, where I procured a very tasty pint called Clem's Gold (a nicely hopped golden ale).

We headed back to Seattle Center, grabbed a falafal sandwich on the run, and lined up to get into Exhibition Hall to see Anti-Flag. The lineup was huge! We thought of bailing, but we stuck with it, and eventually we made it inside. Anti-Flag hadn't started playing yet! They went on about 25 minutes late and rocked hard. After all that, however, we didn't stay for too many songs. We wanted to make sure to get a spot to see the Butthole Surfers at the Fisher Green Stage. It was outdoors, and we needn't have hurried. We also kept calling it the Fisher Price Stage. Somehow, that just seemed to flow better! The BH Surfers played a really good set, although I like their sound better than most of their songs, and I do get a bit annoyed that the singer plays so much with a synthesizer. Their bass player rocks! Sweetie noted that this summer we had seen two of Kurt Cobain's biggest influences: the Meat Puppets and the Butthole Surfers. I reminded her that we had also seen the Pixies not long ago, so that makes three influences!

After that set, we wandered away for a bit, because it was going to be a while before the Kills hit that same stage. We then wandered back into a throng and waited. The Kills went on just a bit late. We went because I really liked songs I'd heard from them. And I know we're supposed to like the Kills. I expected to like them. I know it would be Not Cool not to like them. And really, I thought they were fine. But they didn't blow either of us away. The guitar sound was oddly annoying. The fact that they are a two-piece with backing tracks is limiting. I know this is what you do, kids, but really, maybe you should just bite the bullet and hire a drummer and a bass player and maybe a keyboard player. They do have good songs, at least sometimes. But maybe the grandmas were just reaching the end of a long day. We headed off to kill (no pun intended) a bit of time before our shuttle arrived, pausing briefly to catch a few songs from a band called Carbon Leaf.

We could have tried to squeeze in some more activities, and once upon a time we probably would have. If we'd stood in some other lineups, we could have got special tickets for comedy shows. The Improv Shakespeare Company and the Dead Parrot Society both looked like they'd have been worth checking out. We passed on Broken Social Scene (and thus did not see our obligatory Canadian band while not in Canada) because Key Arena is a brutal place for sound. We had also thought of trying to catch No Means No. We thought of trying to get into what would have been a really small venue to see Dan Savage and his husband Terry. I'm kind of sorry we didn't catch at least some of War Paint, an all-female band who sounded pretty good as we walked toward the BH Surfers. But in the end we were tired and happy. On the way back to our hotel, we even had a nice chat with the driver of our shuttle (originally from Manchester and with a cute accent).


Nawlins in Queen Anne

Well, maybe not. But I'll start by saying that I have nothing but good things to say about Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge.

It was serendipitous that I found the place. I belong to Open Table, a service that allows you to book a table online and gives you points (eventually redeemed for vouchers) for doing so. Open Table operates in many cities, so I set it to Seattle and checked out the results. I looked at restaurants by type of cuisine. Near the top, I saw "Cajun/Creole/Southern." Our kind of food, and cuisines we don't get often enough. The category led to Toulouse Petit. The menu looked fantastic, and reviews that I saw were overwhelmingly positive. So I booked for Saturday night.

Toulouse Petit is not in the least petit! It's quite a large room, with the usual exposed high ceiling, and the walls faux finished and decorated with rows of lit candles. Quite lovely! We usually get annoyed when WE food reviewer Andrew Morrison spends several paragraphs of his review on decor, but we really appreciated this room ourselves. Still, only one paragraph!

One interesting thing about the room was that it was "energetic," the word review sites often use to describe a room that's far from quiet, but Sweetie and I could have a conversation with no problem. It's not a quiet, romantic place, but the combination of the sounds of people having a great time and the ability still to hold a conversation was very pleasant.

The menu is large, and we were a bit overwhemled at first. Our server brought us some slice baguette and butter while we were pondering. We decided to go with the prix fixe menu, a lovely selection of "first," "second," and "third" plates for $33 (with some items costing a bit more). Sweetie started with a salad of heirloom tomatoes with artichoke hearts and arugula. I went with the Toulouse seafood gumbo. Sweetie enjoyed her salad. I was having mouth-gasms over the gumbo. It exploded with flavour, and it was loaded with crawfish, shrimp, and Andouille sausage. I could easily have ordered a bowl of that and been happy. It was well worth the extra two dollars.

For our second course, we decided to share one order of crawfish beignets (done a bit like fritters) that came with two different spicy sauces, and one order of Dungeness crab ravigote over fried green tomatoes. The crab plate was generous and tasty, although not as distinctive as I thought it might be. The beignets, on the other hand, were to die for. Again, we could easily have kept those coming.

We might have done a share thing for the third course, especially with risotto on the menu that sounded lovely, but we couldn't resist going for full portions of "Gulf Shrimp, Crawfish, and Housemade Andouille Sausage over Creamy Corn Grits." Oh baby! This was seriously rich and seriously good. The grits were so nice a creamy because of a sharp cheese that was blended in. We took it slow and enjoyed every beautiful bite.

To accompany this feast, we ordered a half litre of a Viognier from the Columbia Valley in Washington. I like Washington and Oregon wines, and it turned out that my nose for a good wine to match the spicy seafood worked quite well. The wine was fruity enough to stand up to the food, and we enjoyed it very much.

We were groaning happily. While Sweetie was away in the washroom, our server came back to ask if we wanted dessert. We had already agreed that we didn't, but I figured it couldn't hurt to look at the dessert menu, right? Well, I should have thought that a Cajun/Creole restaurant would have bread pudding, something neither of us can resist. So we decided to split it. It wasn't just any bread pudding. We're talking white chocolate bread pudding with whiskey sauce, blackberry compote, and vanilla bean ice cream. Wow. It's a good thing that we split it!

Oh, washroom note. They were quite nice and clean, but the most notable thing were the taps. Instead of a standard spigot, there was a kind of sluice! Or maybe a trough? It worked great, and looked really cool. Should have taken a picture, because I can't find anything on the web that looks like it.

Toulouse Petit has really embraced "recesssion" cuisine that so many high-end restaurants are doing, offering great food for very reasonsable prices. Really, it was a memorable meal from start to finish. We've heard the brunch is amazing. I hope we can make it back for any meal of the day before too long.

Are you experienced?

Ah, Seattle, I missed you. I'm sorry we've been zooming by lately on our way to Portland. I mean, Portland is an extremely cool city, and I miss it too, but it had been too long since we'd made a Seattle visit.

Sweetie and my first stop once we had checked into our hotel on Saturday was the Experience Music Project in Seattle Center. EMP is one of the best museums ever, if you can even call it a museum. It's really a wonderful tribute to rock music.

Our main reason for returning to EMP was a special exhibit about Nirvana called "Taking Punk to the Masses." It's not big, but it's packed with information. It tells the story of the band from the Aberdeen days up until the end, and it's full of artifacts, listening stations, and video displays. You can listen to Nirvana's first demo tape! And the exhibit is not just about Nirvana in isolation, but about how the Seattle scene really came out of the earlier punk scene.

You're invited to leave your own contribution to the oral history of the period. We didn't. What I would have said was about having MTV on and seeing the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time and being blow away. Someone was making real rock music again, and MTV was playing it! The other memory would have been coming home to Sweetie in tears, sobbing. I thought something was seriously wrong, a personal tragedy or something! But it was the news of Kurt Cobain's death. If you didn't feel the loss, then you probably don't love rock music.

EMP also has a permanent (I think) exhibit on Jimi Hendrix that very cool, and a wonderful room that shows the evolution of the electric guitar and electric bass guitar. And there's more! You can go upstairs and play different instruments in various booths. We did that last time so we didn't go away, but hopefully there is still a theramin that you can play with.

The place was slightly invaded by some non-music: an exhibit about the making of the film Avatar. We breezed through that, watching some kids doing a green-screen video recording of themselves as avatar animations. That was pretty cool. Apparently there is also a Battlestar Galactica exhibit somewhere in there.

The Nirvana exhibit runs until April 22, 2013. I wouldn't mind going through it again, nudge nudge road trip.