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So you think you can write - with Don Genova · 13.01.15 by colin newell

Don Genova online writing course

In the year 2015, required participation in social media and online writing has become as commonplace as the plethora of personal communications devices that festoon our bodies.

But just because you can pick up an iPhone and tweet a few characters or blog every whim, that does not make you a creative writer. Writing is hard. I know. I am doing it right now. And I am making lots of mistakes. But you don’t have to.

So Step up. Consider self-improvement.

Want to get some words on the page and not be so off-putting that your reader changes channels or retires to the solace of a monastery?
Then consider Don Genova’s UBC Continuing Studies Courses. It’s aimed at helping you be a better blogger, or getting you into the exciting field of food and travel writing.

You have likely heard of Don Genova – he is the beloved host of Food Matters heard weekly on CBC Radio 1. He is a food journalist with a Masters degree in food history from Italy. He is also the author of a best selling book “Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands” available on Amazon.ca – so he knows his stuff.
If you have been lucky, as I have been, and hung out with him on occasion at a local coffee shop, I can assure you: You will come away with a lot more knowledge about the subject of food, food sustainability and the ability to accurately express yourself on the subject of food. So there is my recommendation.

Anyway, You have three options:

Food and Travel Writing In-Person. Eight Monday nights starting January 26th.
Or you can take this course online over the same time period.
Each week you open up a module of new readings and assignments, with much personal interaction with Don Genova and your classmates through online forums.
The third course is Creating and Sustaining Your Blog, also offered 100% online beginning the end of January.

The advantage of the online courses is that you don’t have to be in the same place at the same time for eight weeks in a row, which works better for some students.
Others prefer the ‘face to face’ aspect of the in-person class.
Either way, you can own Don Genova for two months and you can use his knowledge in these fields to get you going or improve what you’re already doing. Sounds like something I need.

For more information or to register, you can find all the courses on Don Genova’s UBC page at the Continuing Studies website. And you can always contact Don Genova at don at don genova dot com.

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Second Crack Coffee Lab on Bridge Street in Victoria · 22.12.14 by colin newell

Aaron Tann of Second Crack Coffee Lab Victoria

Aaron Tann focuses intently on his pour over brew bar. He is in the middle of preparing a very tasty Ethiopian coffee with the Hario brew system. He slides it across the bar towards me, warning me to give it a couple of minutes to cool.

Aaron is a recent transplant to the city of Victoria. Born in Windsor, Ontario and a former mechanical engineer in Detroit with the Magna corporation, Aaron is pretty new to the coffee business. At the tender age of 37, he has lived in Sweden where he learned a lot about coffee culture. He also lived in Thailand where he met his wife Veronica.

Second Crack Coffee Lab is in one of Victoria’s vibrant industrial neighbourhoods. Aaron is very much into the airy, open and bright look that is available in his 100 year old warehouse space. Andrea and I compared it to some of the bigger cafe roaster facilities that we encountered on our last trip to San Francisco. Additionally, Aaron is making a lot of the necessary changes to the space to give it the required physical integrity appropriate for a seismically active location while at the same time maintaining a cool and hip vibe.

Brewing Hario pours at Second Crack Coffee on Bridge Street.

I asked Aaron about the name and its connection to his preferences on roast profiles. He pushes all of his coffees long and slow except for the delicate Panama Geisha beans. This philosophy sets Aaron somewhat apart from the rest of the pack in Victoria. The local coffee market, in fact, leans heavily towards first crack or medium roasts to maximize flavour impact.

Andrea and I finish up a shared mug of Ethiopian coffee that is impeccably balanced and yet roasted a tad darker than what is normal in the industry. The fruit flavours, however muted at the beginning, start to bloom as the coffee cools. Much to our delight, the coffee’s true complexity continues to develop and surprise our taste buds in the fifteen minutes we were sipping it.

Second Crack Coffee Lab is now open at 2612 Bridge Street. The cafe is across the Bay Street bridge. Travel one km west on Bay Street and turn right on Bridge Street. It is two city blocks down Bridge Street on the left.

Second Crack Coffee is an awesome and welcome addition to the Victoria coffee scene. Welcome Aaron, Veronica and family!

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We interview Joey Kramer of Rockin Roasting Coffee · 16.12.14 by colin newell

Bonus audio interview |


Joey Kramer and his new cafe!

We spoke with Joey Kramer of Rockin Roasting Coffee from Austin, Texas. This is our second conversation with the man who has taken his steady rhythm with the band Aerosmith to the world of specialty coffee. You can read that interview over here

A man of virtually limitless energy, Joey has been tackling the challenges of building a successful coffee business from the ground up. And as Joey makes it abundantly clear, there are no short cuts to success. It is all about putting in the work. Celebrity or no, Joey and his equally energetic partners, Ron Mann and Frank Cimler have discovered that the road to the top is paved with every imaginable challenge.

I think that Mister Kramer was more astounded than I with the achievements over the space of one year; placement in thousands of grocery stores, a partnership with the trusted food company SYSCO and now a bricks and mortar coffee shop in the works.

A coffee shop alone, as any cafe owner will tell you, is a lot of work in terms of development, placement, branding and just getting great coffee into an appreciative audience.

But for Mister Kramer and his tireless dedication to the cause, an actual cafe is a natural extension of his brand of organic coffee beans. Hard work or not, it is just another milestone in what will obviously be a long career in caffeinating the nation.

Hats off to Joey Kramer, and his line of coffee and his dedicated team of professionals.


Listen to the interview |

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.


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We interview jazz diva Maureen Washington - home at Christmas · 11.12.14 by colin newell

Bonus audio interview |


Maureen Washington - Jazz singer

It was a windy and wet Thursday night at Habit Coffee & Culture on Yates Street at the Atrium in downtown Victoria when we spoke with the lovely Maureen Washington – Jazz singer, mom of five, vocal coach, and mentor.

Born and raised in Prince George, British Columbia, Ms. Washington draws upon roots in frontier Canada with connections to Mississippi. The granddaughter of a musician, a singing cowboy no less, her musical fabric draws upon influences as diverse as Etta James, Holly Cole, and (to my ears) a very young Momma Thorton.

There is a certain purity, drive and laser focus in the work of Ms. Washington that defies explanation. It’s visceral, heartfelt, uncompromisingly grounded and targeted directly at the heart.

Some of the greatest music of all time is born of pain and is germinated and cultivated in disparity and conflict. Examples include some of the best works by the likes of The Police, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles and others. Ms. Washington has certainly had her share of challenges but she processes life differently than most of us. She takes life’s most unpredictable curve balls and turns them into positivity. She then distills that positive energy into a musical phrase and the amalgam of this life experience is a beautiful sound, boiled down to its rhythmic essence. For the ears and the heart, it’s a wonderful thing.

Our conversation moved towards Christmas and why, according to Ms. Washington, “it’s the best time of the year and the toughest time of the year.” Her voice takes on a very special strength when tackling some traditional and seasonal material, as it does in her latest Christmas album (available over on CD-Baby). What could have been a painful journey is, in fact, a love story to her husband, her family and the world around her. In her latest CD, “Christmas Is…” Maureen Washington offers up a compendium of seasonal favorites. When taken as a whole, it illustrates a woman’s journey through adversity, guiding us into the now and is a pure celebration of the moment.

Christmas Is... by Maureen Washington

I love the overall sound of this CD. It has timeless classics delivered by a skillful vocalist. Ms. Washington comes across as everyone’s next door neighbor during a time of need with a hug and a hot cup of coffee on a snowy Christmas eve.

Ms. Washington is an artist to watch and performs locally and throughout British Columbia. You can visit her webpage over here. Catch her while you can!

Listen to the interview |


Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

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Katie and a world of cards. · 29.11.14 by colin newell

Custom made cards from Katie

Katie is a lovely 18 year old girl who has Cerebral Palsy. Together with her mom, Sue, they have been making stamped cards since 2007. Prior to receiving assistive technology, Sue used to help her daughter stamp the images on the cards.

Katie has a head controlled stamping machine made for her four years ago by CanAssist. She is now able to stamp the images for her cards through a switch control using her head.

Card making is Katie’s thing and it brings her great joy. She loves making cards and sharing them. Making and selling cards has given her a unique way to connect with people in the community. Additionally, this also allows Katie to give back to the community with the profits from her cards.

Katie has recently had hip surgery which has taken her out of card making commission.

Mom Sue and some of the neighbors put their heads together to see if they could come up with a plan to brighten her recovery. Sue suggested, “Since Katie will not be making cards for a couple weeks, I thought that it would be amazing if bright, beautiful cards made their way to her. Near and Far.”

“We have a world map up. Her sisters will open up the cards and we can mark on the map were they have come from. We have also created a box of inspiration. When someone sends a card if they could put in a single button or piece of ribbon – something cute that Katie can put on a card… That would be great. Once she is back to making her cards she will then have pieces of inspiration from everyone to put on her cards.”

“Please mark on the back of the cards were they are from. I know that Katie will want to look at each and every one for years to come. We are going to put the world map up in her room so she can always see it.”

If you feel like sending a card to Katie, which would be awesome, send them to:

Katie Philip
6898 Central Saanich Rd.,
Victoria B.C.
V8Z 5V2
Canada

Katie thanks you!

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Emerging talent - Kristina Helene - Bengal Lounge 2014 · 24.11.14 by colin newell

Modern Chanteuse - Kristina Helene of Victoria B.C. Canada

I have been going to the Bengal Lounge for the quality atmosphere, entertainment, cocktail culture and great people watching since the early 80’s when I started attending to my post secondary education.

At the time many of the entertainers would have been middle aged men (aged 40 and up) tinkling away at an old piano and singing passable versions of the great American songbook. And yours truly, in his very early 20’s would have sat at the bar in a Harris Tweed coat, white cotton shirt, Hugo Boss tie and suitably matching pants… sipping on a skillfully mixed gin and tonic, hoping with all measure to look grown up.

Flash forward over 30 years and now, it seems, that the Bengal has an entirely new graduating class of star performers vying for our attention. Only difference is, the vocalists and accompanists of the 21st Century have some staying power… and talent.

A case in point: One Kristina Helene. A very-very early twenty something singer with vocal chops light years ahead of her chronological curve on planet Earth.
She dazzled a comfortably populated room at the Empress Hotel with a set of classics that would have been more at home in a much, much bigger club and audience in New York city or Chicago.

Accompanied by the very capable Thomas Kinzel on upright grande piano, Ms. Helene takes us on a sentimental journey of some of the greatest songs ever written – as originally performed by Sinatra, Andy Williams, Leonard Cohen, Bing Crosby and equally influential company. Her ability to finesse a song to greatness verges on the preternatural. Kristina has a sense of rhythm, timing and breath control usually reserved for artists twice her age – and yes, she started very young.

She performed three very tidy sets at the Bengal Lounge – and being the consummate professional gave her piano player a lot of room to showcase his ample grasp of the 88 keys. Kristina’s style defies exact definition in that she does not sound like anyone you have heard in the last 40 years or so. Names like Garland, Peggy Lee, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne and Nina Simone kind of popped into my head – but I could also hear a bit of Adele, Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse on a molecular level. It is quite unique. It is immensely exciting and demands your attention.

I had the pleasure of hearing Diana Krall play a small venue on Vancouver Island in the 80’s before she was discovered – this event with Ms. Helene felt exactly like that. So check it out!

Kristina Helene and Thomas continue at the Bengal Sundays from 7 PM until 10PM through December. Do yourself a treat and come down and check out what the future of jazz sounds like. Ms. Helene is a rising star that you should not miss if you have the opportunity. Check out her website over here – Kristina Helene has a stunning YouTube channel over here

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