Visiting Swoon Fine Art on Hammonds Plains Road has been on my to-do list for a while now and I finally made it out this past weekend. We were travelling back to the city after some South Shore cottage time and it was the perfect stopping-off point. You can’t miss the large pink sign and the gallery/boutique itself is located in a charming old Victorian farmhouse with a wrap-around deck.
I’m used to visiting galleries in an urban setting so visiting Swoon was a pleasant change of pace. Each room is utilized and showcases a different theme of artwork ranging from modern to kitsch to re-purposed. The main floor is home to owner and director Brandt Eisner’s office and several large rooms with different exhibits and antiques. Blythe Church’s hand-dyed, hand-stitched felt vintage cameras and retro toys were a favourite of mine. Currently, I’m a bit journal obsessed so I was also drawn to the beautiful leather-bound Drunken Sailors Leatherworks journals. Susan Paczel’s stoneware also caught our attention. We loved the quirky dishes in the shapes of sheep, llamas and roosters.
Upstairs is a lovely blend of custom-made jewellery, antiques and vintage clothing all displayed in vibrantly painted rooms. My friends and I absolutely adored the blue room dedicated solely to vintage salt and pepper shakers. Unicorns, pineapples, kissing bears and more were all displayed delightfully on tidy shelves. In the room next door we found a mix of vintage clothing and hand-crafted jewellery. I’m already a big fan of Angela Grace so I was pleased to see her amazing fox rings, cufflinks and bracelets on display as well as her edgy arrowhead pendants. New-t- me jeweller Emily Seaboyer’s delicate juniper branch ring in sterling silver was also a stand-out.
Swoon has been open for three and a half years now and Eisner can be found there pretty much every day of the week. He says that the response from customers has been glowing and that the gallery is steadily gaining momentum.
“We’re in a fantastic spot that gets a lot of traffic going to and from the city and there’s really nothing else like this in this location,” he says. “These days we get many customers making a special trip just to visit us.”
Eisner is a collector of art and antiques himself so opening Swoon was a natural progression. With a focus on Nova Scotia artists, there is a constant flow of group and solo shows. For my friends and I, the experience of checking out unique artwork in a picturesque setting was a lovely way to finish off a leisurely weekend. Next time, I’m thinking a longer visit may be in order with a visit to the new restaurant Edible Matters just down the road.
Eisner in one of the many colourful display rooms at Swoon
Blythe Church’s amazing felt cameras
The wonderful salt and pepper shakers room
Church’s felt guitar
Drunken Sailor Leatherworks
This is the 18th in a series of posts detailing Editor Trevor J. Adams’s get-fit project, currently underway with GoodLife Fitness.
It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post on my fitness adventure, and I’ve heard from a few readers worried that the silence meant I’d given up. But never fear—the campaign is still going strong. Since I began this project in November, the goal has been to lose 40 pounds of fat by Canada Day. I’ve been making pretty good progress. I started at a size 38 or (if I inhaled a lot) a size 36 waist; I’m now somewhere between a size 34 and 32. At the same time, I’ve lost between 25 and 30 pounds. That number seems to be different every time I weigh myself—sometimes up, sometimes down. Jon assures me that’s normal, but it irritates me to no end.
So, I’m happy with how much I’ve improved—thanks to healthier diet (mostly following the Canada Food Guide) and lots of exercise (in a typical week, I’m at the gym four times)—but it’s going to be a tough race to hit my goal by Canada Day. What I’m trying to do now is just tightly focus on that goal. I work better with concrete deadlines. Since I returned from vacation last month, I haven’t found it easy to get back into the routine. Work and personal commitments have caused me to miss a few trips to the gym, and whenever that happens, my diet starts to slip—I haven’t been overeating, but I’ve been reaching for carbs and prepackaged food more than I should. And last week, Jon Ells, my personal trainer, went on vacation. Jon left me with a good program to follow while he was gone, and a stern pep talk.
I have to confess, the temptation to slack off while he was gone was almost overwhelming—I think that was the least motivated I’ve felt since starting this project. I mostly slogged on, although I skipped a regular weeknight trip to the gym to take advantage of a rare sunny day to mow my lawn, and on Saturday morning I decided to sleep late instead of going.
Tonight will be my first session with Jon since he’s back from vacation, and I’m looking forward to it. He promises me that we’re really going to knuckle down and refocus now. He’s mixing up my workout program to increase the intensity and really burn that fat. We’re beginning to do “super sets,” combining sets of two different exercises. (For example, 10 reps of squats, 10 reps of leg presses and then a very short break before starting the squats again). We already do one super set a session, and I’m looking forward to doing more. I enjoy my workouts most when they’re really intense—it kind of reminds me of when I did Boot Camp team training with Jon at the start of the process. And the same time, I’m really trying to refocus on my eating habits. I eat way better than I used to, but I can still do better. Two immediate areas for improvement: eating a balanced breakfast daily and eliminating evening snacking.
I know hitting my goal by July 1 is going to be tough. And however it ends, I’m pretty delighted with how much my fitness has improved. But I feel like it’s Round 11 now, so I need to refocus and work hard. When I get to July 1, I want to know I’ve done my very best to hit the goal.
In next week’s post, I’ll talk more about how Jon’s upping my workout intensity.
Thom Swift isn’t an easy musician to write about. Don’t get me wrong—he’s super nice and clearly talented. But he doesn’t fit neatly into any of those boxes that music writers like. “Bluesman” is the place most desperate writers, this guy included, go when describing him, but he doesn’t really play the blues. You can hear folk and roots influences, but he’s not folksy. And he can rock out just fine, but no one would call his new album The Fortunate Few a rock album.
I suppose you could say he’s adult-alternative-contemporary…something. But it doesn’t matter—here’s what you need to know: The Fortunate Few is a polished, thoughtful album from a versatile singer/songwriter/musician, showcasing all the talent, insight and musicality that he’s amassed in 20+ years in the business.
“I’m always going for depth,” Swift says. “The older I get, the more I see, the more I’m moved by the people in my life. I don’t want to put out fluff. I’ve put out 13 albums and this is the best.” It’s not unusual for a musician to say his newest album is his best, but The Fortunate Few is rather a unique case. When a local musician records an album, it’s common to record everything over a single weekend—maybe a week if he’s really lucky. For this album, Swift enjoyed an unprecedented two months in the studio. His friend Miles Gallagher let him use his Fortress Studios for as long as it took to get the album exactly right. “Miles told me to take my time, do a fantastic album,” Swift says. “Knowing the chance we had, we really tried to turn out good, solid songs.”
Each song is an earnest, heartfelt look at the human condition. The lead track is “200 Miles” a Celtic-tinged love song that “lots of people have been digging,” says Swift. The second track, “The Fortunate Few” sums up what the album is about: being aware of what you have, and how lucky you are. It’s also your textbook example of a Thom Swift sound: four solid minutes of tight music, smart lyrics, a bit of a blues vibe, a lot of a Springsteen vibe, and a steady, poetic sense of timing. If you only listen to one Thom Swift song in your life, make it this one.
Swift did most of the writing himself, over a two-month period before going into the studio, so it all meshes together well, the songs interlocking to form a bigger picture. After “The Fortunate Few” things go more upbeat with “Sweet Thing.” Swift calls it a “party song,” which doesn’t altogether do it justice. It’s light-hearted but still thoughtful and complex, lightening the mood and giving the band a chance to show off. Currently, this is my favourite song from the album. Listen carefully as harmonica god Mike Stevens takes it for a walk. “I’ve had a few moments where I looked at Mike and thought ‘Good God,’” Swift says. “He actually is the world’s greatest harmonica player, you know.” (Swift doesn’t exaggerate—Stevens is a bluegrass legend.)
Stevens is just one of the contributors to the album that Swift is quick to highlight. He praises his band effusively, also highlighting Kevin Breit (who played guitar, banjo and mandolin) and engineer Ed Renzi. He even praises local artist Angela Conrad, who created the cover art. “We clicked right from the start,” he says.
The most evocative track on the album, however, is a solo effort by Swift. He wrote the song “Forever,” and played guitar and sang. It’s a farewell to his children, intended to give them peace when he passes. (He’s not ill—just forward-looking.) It’s a moving song, a bit of a tear-jerker, but Swift hesitated to include it on the album. “It’s really just for me and them,” he says. “I wasn’t sure if it was something I should share, but I’m glad I did. I wanted a complete album and that completes it.”
While putting the album together, Swift tried to stay unfazed, but now that it’s out and he’s touring, he’s taking it in. “I didn’t get too wrapped up in it while it was happening,” he says. “Too busy, too focused—it keeps me going that I don’t get too excited. But I know how blessed I am, and it just keeps getting better.”
Thom Swift’s next live performance in the city is on May 23, as her performs at the Basinview Drive Community School Fundraising Concert in Bedford. He spends most of June touring Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes, playing small-venue shows, before returning to perform at the Halifax Jazz Festival on July 8.
By Courtney Zwicker
The 2013 Atlantic Book Awards is celebrating local literary talent this week. The awards gala takes place May 16 at the Alderney Landing Theatre in Dartmouth at 7 p.m., which includes 10 award categories.
The awards have been under the leadership of the Atlantic Book Awards Society (ABAS) since 2009. President of the society Heather Mackenzie says books by Atlantic authors often embody the spirit of the four provinces. “One thing that is unique is many of [the books] create a really good sense of place,” she says. “They often have settings that are among the provinces and often reflect lots of aspects of the Atlantic culture.”
The ABAS is a non-profit organization with the mandate “to promote and acknowledge excellence in Atlantic Canadian writing and book publishing through an annual ceremony and related events.”
To learn more, visit www.atlanticbookawards.ca
The Blue Nose Marathon weekend is around the corner. For months, thousands have trained to participate in this event. Most of the runners and walkers are people with the goal of leading a healthy lifestyle. We all know the correlation between stress and health. But somehow we overlook the importance of our financial fitness, which—when in balance—can reduce our stress levels and make us happier, healthier people. If we stay off the financial fitness treadmill, well, it’s another story.
Living paycheque to paycheque and being bogged down in debt causes unhealthy levels of stress, erodes health and even relationships. Money problems can leave many unable to pay for essential items like food, shelter, clothing and even transportation, let alone luxuries such as a dining out.
Poor financial health straddles all income groups. Whether you make $1,000 a month or $10,000 a month, if you live beyond your means it’s going to be a problem and eventually cause stress. It’s never too late to be financially fitter.
Take a financial fitness test
When beginning any fitness regime, you have to know your starting point before you can determine how to reach your goal. It’s no different when it comes to your finances. Determine how much you make each month from all income sources. Next, list all monthly expenses including debt payments. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I have enough income monthly to cover my expenses? If not, how can I earn more or reduce expenses to stay in balance. What is the goal I would like to achieve in the short term and long term?
Create a financial fitness plan
Once you have determined your goals, create a daily, weekly or monthly plan reflecting exactly how you plan to achieve them. A goal without a plan is simply a wish. You can’t afford to wish years away stressing about money you don’t have. Most of us spend more time planning our annual family vacation than for planning our financial futures. Take the time to create your financial roadmap. Do it today!
Aggressively pay down debts
The money you are paying on high interest monthly credit card bills could easily be saved to create a nice, comfortable future nest egg. The sooner you pay off these debts, the sooner you increase your net worth faster than saving money. While shaving half a percentage point off your mortgage is important, let us not forget you are paying 20 per cent plus on most credit cards.
Pay yourself first
Make yourself a priority. Create a healthy financial habit by putting money away from every paycheque. Do not wait until the end of the month to save the left over money, because there won’t be any. Most people spend what is available, unless you make yourself number 1. Even saving a small amount of money each paycheque is better than saving none at all.
Prepare for retirement
Yes, everyday we are getting older and one step closer to retirement. Just like your physical fitness, financial fitness should not stop when you age. Plan on leaving the workforce someday. Contribute to a company or government pension plan. Set money aside and contribute to the best savings tools for you.
It’s important to remember that staying financially healthy is a lifelong goal. Be patient and persistent. Practice healthy financial habits, such as saving money and paying down debt. Don’t forget to get a regular financial checkup from time to time and reevaluate/adjust your lifelong goals. Managing your money better can make you happier and healthier.
By Courtney Zwicker
Ten students from NSCAD received cash prizes on May 2 at the Starfish Student Art Awards Gala, which was held at the college’s Port Campus.
One award nominee was selected from each medium taught at the school, including painting, sculpture and film. Graduating student Torrance Beamish received the grand price of $5,000 for his ceramics piece. The other nine nominees were awarded $1,000.
Beamish’s piece will become part of NSCAD’s permanent art collection. President of the school Dan O’Brien says this award will help prepare the young artists for the rest of their careers. “A very important part of artist culture is the competition,” he says.
“I’m never surprised to hear one of our students and alumni winning a big award, whether it be an Oscar, a Governor General’s Award or a Guggenheim,” he adds.
Beamish was humbled by the award. “It is an honour and a thrill to be nominated let alone to win,” he says. His award winning series of seven lidded urns are inspired by the language and symbolism of ceremonial objects. The Vancouver native will be returning to his home city to open his own studio after graduation.
This approaching Saturday is so full of local love and positivity that I get giddy just thinking about it. Open City encourages HRM residents to walk-about and discover local businesses, new and old. As you may have guessed, this is right up my alley and I’m already earmarking some fantastic deals on shopping and dining.
Since I’m a North End girl, I’m always keen to check out my neighbourhood’s offerings. So far, I’m thinking sampling popcorn sprayed with gourmet olive oils at Liquid Gold in the Hydrostone will be a must and backdoor take-out at either Chez Tess for a smoked Nova Scotia chicken wrap sandwich or Local Source for gnudi (naked ravioli). Luckily for me, The Food Wolf truck will also be parked nearby on Gottingen and Falkland Streets serving up vegan milkshakes and kimchi virgin Caesars. Other draws for me include discounts at Bridge Brewing Company, warm brioche sandwiches at Ratinaud Charcuterie and free birthday cake at Ace Burger with the purchase of one of their delectable burgers.
Mouthwatering treats aside, there will also be some amazing pop-up shopping deals just for one day all over the city. For those of you on the hunt for a last minute Mother’s Day gift, this may be the ideal opportunity to scoop up a thoughtful present. Halifax Seed will be hosting “Plant a Pansy for Mom” in the morning and the Brewery Market is raffling off a gift basket of all local goodies. Inkwell will be giving away origami lilies with purchases as well as offering ten percent off all Nova Scotia artists’ products. Meanwhile, up in the Hydrostone, Bogside Gallery will be hosting a draw for a wrought iron pot rack and offering free gift wrapping exclusively for Mother’s Day gifts.
These are just a few examples of some of the amazing options that will be available on Saturday. For someone like me, it’s just a reminder of how great our local businesses are and an incentive to keep exploring. For those new to the city, it’s a unique way to open minds and inspire one and all to take advantage of everything Halifax has to offer.
The above picture shows Frederic Tandy of Charcuterie Ratinaud on Gottingen Street.
Andrea Rahal demonstartes how to use the vintage printing press at Inkwell.
Peter Burbridge of Bridge Brewing Compnay on Agricola Street
I always find spring to be a tempting time of year in terms of shopping, food, art and events. There’s a bounty of intriguing products emerging to make our lives more fashionable and even a little healthier …. Consequently, I seem to have a lot on my shopping list lately but here are a few of my current favourites.
Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique & Letterpress Studio is a regular stop for me for picking up quirky, heartfelt greeting cards and unique prints. Currently, I have the Field Trip iPhone case on my wish list. I love their motifs which include anchors, delicate florals, antlers, feathers and more. For those of you looking to personalize as well as protect your iPhone, these cases are a very cool option.
Secondly, I absolutely love my Seconds, aptly named yoga jeans, that is. Available at J&R Grimsmo on Barrington Street, these figure-flattering jeans fit like a second skin but are miraculously comfortable. The high-waisted design banishes muffin tops and they are currently available in a rainbow of bright colours. As a devotee of the darkest of denims, I wasn’t really sure if I could pull off the electric hues of the season but I impulsively snapped up an icy blue pair. Paired with a neutral colour (no, I refuse to do head-to-toe brights) these jeans put a little happiness in my steps. It’s also nice to know that Second Denim is based in Montreal and the jeans are 100% North American made. If my budget will allow it, I’d love to pick up another pair (shamrock, lemon lime or periwinkle might do nicely)…
On a recent visit to The Wooden Monkey, my friend and I tried the haskap berry juice now available. This super fruit is being hailed as the new acai berry and it is loaded with antioxidants. The dark purple juice is slightly sweeter than pomegranate juice and reminds me of a cross between blueberries and raspberries. I was pleased to learn that The Wooden Monkey is using the berries in a few recipes (think haskap chutney and fruit crisp). Since it was lunch time, we stuck with straight-up juice to accompany our meals but I would love to return to try a haskap cosmopolitan from the bar menu. A cocktail rich in antioxidants that makes me feel amazing and decreases my chances of a hangover? Don’t mind if I do!
Make no mistake about it, spring is cropping up and our city is offering a plethora of intriguing and thoughtful ways to spend a buck. If you enjoy posts like this, I will certainly continue to write about a few of my favourite things. Now, tell me, what are some of yours?
A lovely feather motif from Field Trip
Blending right in with my colourful yoga jeans…
Yes, I do like to take pictures of my favourite dishes… The haskap berry juice went well with my delicious rice bowl at The Wooden Monkey.
This is the 17th in a series of posts detailing Editor Trevor J. Adams’s get-fit project, currently underway with GoodLife Fitness.
When I went on vacation the week before last, I worried about what it would mean for my get-fit efforts. My personal trainer, Jon Ells, armed me for my trip to the Dominican with lots of advice on how I should try to eat healthy, even while I was at an all-inclusive resort. He assured me that I could enjoy myself without undoing all the work I’ve done since November. Following Jon’s advice (more or less), I let myself have a few treats.
I resisted the temptation to load up on desserts. Harder to resist was the call of white bread, which has all but disappeared from my diet in the last few months. I had hamburger buns and rolls a few times. One morning, some french toast leapt onto my plate. And there were a couple of times I opted for late-night snacks. And of course, I drank a lot more booze than I normally do, too… but I stuck mostly with gin and tonic and whiskey and water, avoiding calorie-laden beer and rum.
It was by no means a typical week, but overall, I felt like I did pretty well. According to my scales at home, I gained a pound at the most. I ate a lot of stuff I liked, but never really binged. My plans to do three full workouts in the fitness room were ambitious, but I did manage two 45-minute stints on the exercise bike. Smoking is unquestionably my worst vice, and I had many cigars during the week, but that habit stopped as soon as I returned to a country that frowns on indoor smoking.
Getting back into my old fitness routine upon the return home has been tough, though. I’m mostly eating well, just trying to follow the Canada Food Guide, and avoiding carbs, but it isn’t easy. I’m craving hamburgers and pizza and chicken wings and my old friends that I rediscovered on vacation. I’ve been back at the gym regularly since my return, but I don’t feel back in the groove yet. Exercises are tougher and I seem to have forgotten some basics of form while I was away. I know if I stick with it, the good habits I built will return, so I’m being patient. Next time, I’ll be a little more rigorous with my diet and working out. For me, it seems the good habits are a lot easier to break than make.
The next couple of weeks are make-or-break time for my plans to lose 40 pounds by Canada Day. I’m down about 22 pounds now, so it isn’t going to be easy, but it’s still doable—I just need to work hard and really watch my diet. In my next post, I’ll talk about how Jon is amping up my training to hit that goal. In the meantime, contact Jon on Twitter with your fitness questions.
This past week I received an invitation to attend Lainey Gossip’s Faculty of Celebrity Studies hosted at Fred Salon and sponsored by Vitaminwater. Lainey Lui has evolved her career as an entertainment journalist on etalk into a full blown gossip maven and writes a blog called laineygossip that is very popular and downright scandalous. Not being well-versed in celebrity culture, I was feeling a little ill-prepared when I hit the scene this past Wednesday night. However, I figured that cocktails, canapés and gossip galore would bring out the fashion set in droves…
The crowd was almost all women with the exception of our gracious hosts Fred and Joel and everyone was in fine form. I spotted a lot of top-knots, vibrant colours and great spring booties. Lui, in particular, was sporting a towering pair of vibrant blue booties that I’m sure the audience was coveting.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Lui ties her celebrity gossip in with cultural issues at large. So, instead of feeling clueless about Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle dynasty or Hugh Jackman’s marital arrangement, I was engaged by themes of privacy, motherhood and what we value as a society in general. It was interesting to discuss the setbacks that women are still facing when it comes to relationships and careers. Lui made an interesting comment that perhaps “women are the ones holding women back.”
The room was intense though, I have to say. We were literally surrounded by women who are obsessed with celebrities, which I find a little troubling. Now, I will admit to picking up gossip rags while I’m in line at the Superstore and leafing through. But I’m more drawn towards celebrities I actually like because of their films or music and yes (guilty pleasure) I do check out what they’re wearing. However, I really couldn’t care less about their personal lives. Lui deserves props for elevating the conversation and making us think a little about why our culture is currently so celebrity-obsessed.
The evening took a bit of a turn for me when Lui repeatedly dropped the c-bomb about Reese Witherspoon. She then proceeded to get down to the nitty gritty and spilled some dirt on several stars. Even though the crowd was eating this up, I have to say it kind of made my skin crawl. There was an undeniable pleasure taken from ripping apart a bunch of people we really know nothing about. One of Lui’s questions to the audience was “Don’t you just hate her?” and I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s comments like this that exemplify “women holding women back.”
Still, the evening was titillating, thought-provoking but maybe just a tad harsh for me. Lui is a force to be reckoned with and did an amazing job engaging the crowd and brought to light some eyebrow-raising, juicy stories…. But the main thing that resonated with my friend and I when we escaped into the rainy night was that we didn’t want to hate the girl sitting next to us who might be more fashionable or the millionaire celebrity who seems to have it all. By the end of the evening, the only thing that I felt I might truly “hate” is celebrity gossip…
Stylish guests Jennifer Wong and Nikola Hartling
Emily Harris and L-A Steeleworthy of Fashionable People Questionable Things blog
Kayla Short of Short Presents blog and Kerrianne Ryan
Lainey Lui doing her thing…
Lindsay MacMullen and Sheilah MacDonald