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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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Long time companion moves on to the infinite pasture of joy · 14.08.14 by colin newell

Sasha - devoted and loving companion to my sister Lisa

Just got the news that my sister’s devoted companion of so many years, Sasha, has moved on to the next leg of her journey.

Sasha has been the family canine companion, living with my dear sister Lisa, for many a year. And as everyone knows, the family pooch is often the cornerstone of this thing we call home – often bringing everyone together, giving us all a reference point – focusing on the love, purity, devotion and pureness of heart that is the family pet.

Life often revolves around our domesticated charges – and so it should be, as these loving creatures have been at our side since the dawn of time. We depend on them as they do on us. We give them what we give them and in return, they give us the silent unspoken love and loyalty that is available from no other creature.

Sasha has been Lisa’s steady compatriot through her travels in and around Victoria – has seen a few changes of location, sunrises, sunsets and all manner of weather. Sasha was something of a rescue pooch – and from our perspective, she had the greatest life possible with Lisa. As has been spoken, “No one could have treated her better – and she could not have been more loved…”

Sasha now leaves us, moving on to her spiritual realm and within the living legacy of our memories for her. She will not just be missed but will forever change the fabric of the community in which she lived… and loved.

We will never forget you Sasha – and with all the love that we have left over, we will pass it forward to the next doggie needing our love.

Safe journey my little friend!

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This house - a new series - Chapter 1 - welcome home · 3.08.14 by colin newell

This is the first in a series of many, many blogs to come on the joys of home ownership in Victoria B.C. Canada.

After a search of what feels like 20 years (yes, it can and often does take that long to find the right forever home on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island.) we are finally here. And it still feels somewhat (at times completely) surreal.

We have been living in a 2 BR / 2 BTH unit for the last 16 years or so – a large 1250 sq. ft place that made up for its flaws with a 270 degree water and mountain view – and I dare say that the view never got tired in all that time. That said, there was no real house pride because one could not really impart ones own sense of style on it. And now, with a house, it is a moderately blank palette.

One of many questions that comes up for me personally is: Why have a house and a backyard anyway? What about all the work and the stuff that needs to be maintained. Well living in a flat, apartment or condo requires maintenance – it is just that you pay someone else to do things that you can likely do yourself… cheaper and at times better… and learning new things at the same time – because learning keeps you sharp and fresh and prepared.

It also comes down to “you have to live somewhere…” and pay someone for the privilege – so you might as well pay yourself (and the bank…)

I will not spend too much time on the journey to get here because everyone knows how desirable it is to live in the city and country around Victoria and Vancouver Island… and how pricey it can be.

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Living in Victoria - Fernwood Bites · 4.06.14 by colin newell

Fernwood Bites - you have to eat here!

Fernwood’s tastiest event, Fernwood Bites, is back for the fifth year in a row. In partnership with Cook Culture & local restaurateurs, Fernwood NRG is offering food-&-drink-lovers a chance to sample Victoria’s finest fare at its annual tasting event and fundraiser.

Happening in Fernwood Square on Sunday, June 22nd, the event will feature an evening of food and drink sampling, live jazz, and a silent auction of items donated by local artists and businesses. Proceeds will help fund Fernwood’s sustainable food initiatives including the Good Food Box, Fernwood Neighborhood Orchard, and Kitchen Garden Pilot Project.

Participants in Fernwood Bites include 10 Acres Bistro + Bar + Farm, AJ’s Organic Cafe, Aubergine Specialty Foods, Be Love, Bon Macaron Patisserie, Bona Vini Wines Co., Cascadia Bakery, Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen, Choux Choux Charcuterie, Cook Culture, Discovery Coffee, Fernwood Inn, The Hot & Cold Cafe, Hoyne Brewing Co., Lonetree Cider, Olive The Senses, Origin Bakery, Padella Italian Bistro, Phillips Brewing Co., Renaissance Wine Merchants, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, Silk Road Tea, Spinnakers, Stage Wine Bar, Stir It Up, Wildfire Bakery, Yates Street Taphouse, and Yonni’s Doughnuts.

Fernwood Bites 2014

Fernwood Bites will run from 5:30-8pm on Sunday, June 22nd in Fernwood Square (Gladstone at Fernwood). Tickets for this 19+ event are $50 and include all samples. Tickets are available online at fernwoodbites2014.eventbrite.ca.

About Fernwood NRG
Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group is a charitable organization that offers programs and services to the neighbourhood of Fernwood, including childcare, affordable housing, family support services, parenting groups, community recreation and celebration. Led by a membership of neighbourhood residents, Fernwood NRG sets as its highest goal social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Fernwood NRG believes that a neighbourhood society should be responsive, active, engaging and fun. For more information about Fernwood NRG, please visit www.fernwoodnrg.ca

For some more yummy looking photos of Fernwood Bites from last year – head over here


Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident and freelance food and drink writer – active in the Victoria area and Canada since 1995!

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The Urban CBC Chickens of Greater Victoria · 28.04.14 by colin newell

Listen to the Podcast |


The CBC Chickens of Swan Lake

I consider myself an avid CBC Radio fan — and recently when a colleague told me about their urban farm in Victoria and how they named their chickens after local regional CBC Personalities – well, I could not resist pitching it to the local CBC station on 90.5

In the photo above, there’s Carol Off, (the black one), Jo-Ann Roberts (the gray one) and Anna Maria Tremonti (the red one)!

This podcast (interview) is around 4 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

Hats off to the CBC for listening to their listeners and knowing when a story has wings… and in this case, folksy charm.

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

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Saaz Indian restaurant first impressions · 7.03.14 by colin newell

Saaz Restaurant - finally, Great Indian Food!

Andrea and I have been on the prowl for a great Indian restaurant for a long, long time. I will admit it – we both love the intense flavors and aroma of a great curry – and Victoria B.C. although having pretty comprehensive coverage of many a cuisine, Indian food is not something that we seem to do very well.

Well, that all changed with the arrival of Saaz Restaurant at 535 Yates St. in the lower part of Old Town in Victoria. Tucked in an unassuming old office building is an inviting, old school and rustic space that belies the incredible food within. Sure, we had read a few reviews on Urban Spoon and Trip Adviser – reviews I often take with a grain of salt – but in this case, all of the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and blindingly glowing. OK. We are in.

But let’s back up a step. It was our new Canadian English friends that suggested Saaz, because they, more than us really miss a great curry, the likes of which was pretty commonplace in the old country.

Anyway – after an quick e-mail to Gurpreet, director of operations and affable host – and getting a bit of a background on what the Saaz concept is all about – it became pretty clear that the potential for great food was here. So off we went tonight.

Saaz is a pretty rustic space – that once could have been an old school English pub in another life. The decor is pretty simple, clean lines in dark wood and brick. There are 3 distinct rooms in the space – 2 on the main, 1 upstairs – so there is an option for private parties. It is not all that much to look at – but what the heck. It is not so much about the layout as it is about the food, right? Well everything about the food shone bright. So onto that then!

We started with Mustard masala jackfruit with tomatoes, Curried brussels sprouts, onions and tomatoes, Prawns with garlic, coconut and spices, and Vegetables pakoras… there was 4 of us after all!

The Jackfruit (never had it before) is a cross between chicken and artichoke in texture in a mustard masala that is just hot enough but not overpowering. The pakoras were sublime and the lentil daal that came with the pakoras was immensely satisfying – could have eaten a bowl of this alone. The brussels sprouts would have been right at home with a Christmas Turkey dinner – but here they were on an Indian menu! Perfectly cooked with a little bit of crunch left over – but not overwhelmed by spice and a delightful nutty flavor remaining. The prawns were prepared perfectly, impeccably fresh and well spiced — with a bit more of a bite.

For mains, our team of diners tackled Lamb with garam masala and raw brown sugar (for Andrea) – Chicken Tikka , Chicken in yogurt, ginger, garlic cooked in the traditional clay oven for Sharon, Chicken in Kalonji seeds and spices for Steve and Butter Chicken for me. The rice pilaf served with each main is impeccably prepared, fluffy and light – rice that I cannot reproduce at home. I appreciated the portion sizes – by the time we got to the mains, we were pretty full from sampling appetizers – so it all worked!

I was playing it pretty safe with the Chicken but it was well balanced, presented in a, for me, a perfect portion size – with lots of flavor and authenticity.

Steve’s Chicken in Kalonji was very, very interesting – like most of the night, I was experiencing lots of new flavors. Between the 4 of us we also shared a plate of perfect and warm garlic Naan bread… the perfect compliment to everything else that was in front of us.

For dessert: Rose & Mango Kulfi (Ice Cream) – divine, a luscious and sensuous creaminess and fragrant botanical flavor spectrum that you have never had in a frozen bowl! We also had Gulab Jabun (Indian Doughnuts) in a simple cardamom infused sugar sauce. I would happily die eating these little morsels.

Service was professional, engaged and informative – we loved everything and look forward to coming back for more exploration.

Our friends, Steve and Sharon – who are sticklers for a good Indian feast were 100% satisfied – and that was a relief – because we have been at some of those other places in Victoria that left us somewhat heartbroken.

I wish Saaz and the team the very best and hope they succeed – this is a place that I would encourage everyone to try… and soon!

Saaz is located at 535 Yates St #103, Victoria, BC V8W 1K7 – (778) 433-7229
and their website is – Saaz Restaurant

Saaz Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

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