Friday, July 31, 2015

Mitchell's Soup - Apricot Butter Chicken

When you buy something from us, you're also buying a piece of what we believe in, too—dinner isn't just about it eating, it’s about sharing a meal, stories and a smile with the people you love. And that’s exactly what all of us at Mitchell’s Soup Co. care about the most—creating a genuine and memorable food experience with modern flair for our customers each time they make one of our recipes.

I fully acknowledge this food post is not a regular recipe to try, but it's about cooking, so decided it still fit the bill. How many times have you been at a Farmer's Market or Country Style Store and come across prepackaged dry mixes for soups, chilis and salads?  I have bought them as gifts, but honestly never made one myself.

Stock image
On my recent trip to Toronto, I visited the Evergreen Brickworks where my first stop was in the Evergreen Garden Market. I love shopping in this type of market. I walked away with several dry mixes, a jar of curry sauce and more. In the end most was again given away as usual, but I did save one for myself - a package of Mitchell's Soup Co.'s Apricot Butter Chicken. (Note - I actually also bought a package of Kale salad mix from another manufacturer, but forgot I was cooking the grains while trying to make it. Not a pretty.)

After years of cooking, you start to get a feel for how good something might turn out. While reading the instructions, I knew right away this had potential.  Best of all - you could mix it all together and just pop it in the oven. An hour later you pull it out and stir in the final ingredient. I need more easy, but quality cooking like this in my life. My husband doesn't like spicy, but while this has a definite curry element - he had to agree it wasn't "hot."

Here is how simple it is to make. Prepare large oven casserole dish. Add package mix. Add 4 cups water, 3 cups raw diced chicken breast (they say 1-2 cups but it really needs more), 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup diced mango or apple (I had apple so used that).  In addition I added a small package of diced onion/celery/carrots mix from the grocery store - about 1 cup total - and some sliced mushrooms that needed using up. That's it. Bake for 1 hour, take out of oven and stir in 3/4 cup yogurt or sour cream. I ended up adding a little more - about 1 cup of Greek Yogurt. How easy is that???

In closing, I want to add a few notes about Mitchell's Soup Co. It is a family owned business in Cowichan Valley, B.C., that all started all started around Y2K when the owner's mother began stocking up on dried beans and legumes just in case something happened. After the date passed uneventfully - she was left with a large stock of these ingredients and began packaging them in tubes to sell at farmer's markets. The rest is history. Everything is made in house in small batches from quality ingredients and recipes are triple tested. Offerings include soups, chilis, dahl, rice dishes, ancient grain salads and dessert.

For more information or to peruse the Mitchell's Soup Co. online store go to -

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Greek Pasta With Rotisserie Chicken

One day a recipe caught my eye. When I looked at the blog it was posted on, they credited Cathy at The Noble Pig with the original. Okay, time to go to the source.

After perusing for a bit, I decided I wanted to try this recipe for Greek Chicken Pasta. Let's face it, on a busy day who doesn't love a great quick and easy pasta dish. I am out for most of the day today, so giving this a go tonight for supper along with a leafy salad.

Pasta dishes can be bland if you're not careful as pasta has a tendency to really soak up the flavours. The strong salty notes in this one provided by the Kalamata Olives and the Feta cheese give this pop. The fresh spinach adds colour and the shredded rotisserie chicken help make this a quick to prepare dish. To anyone who tries to shortcut with dried onion and garlic powder, I can only say make time for the fresh product. It makes a huge flavour difference.

I made one change - the nuts.  For whatever reason, pine nuts are okay - but just not my favourite in terms of taste and texture. I am using roasted pistachio seeds when I make it tonight, but also love pumpkin seeds, cashews or almond slivers.

That's the great part about recipes - you can make small adjustments to accommodate your preferences. Be careful if you want to change any of the bolder taste elements as the recipe is built around those. Better to start from scratch.

The funny note here is when I copied and pasted this onto my site, I noticed that Cathy credits Sunset. I assume she means Sunset Magazine. So the recipe is not hers originally and no notes are there to indicate if she changed it in any way. Then I discovered this isn't a food blog per se - it is a blog for a winery called The Noble Pig in Carlton, Oregon. Their recommendation to pair with this dish?  Noble Pig Pinot Blanc!

The Hungry Pig Winery

Note - made this last night and impressed. Easy and tasty. It's the salty Kalamata olives and feta that make it pop, so if you don't like these salty olives, it will be a very mild dish. Enjoy!

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Greek Chicken Pasta
From Sunset

6 oz.            Spaghetti
3 T              Olive oil
1 C              Chopped onion
1 T              Minced garlic
8 oz.            Baby spinach
1/2 C           Dry white wine
1/2 tsp         Red chile flakes
1 C              Pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 C              Toasted pistachios (or pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios or almonds)
1/2 tsp         Each kosher salt and pepper
2 C              Shredded rotisserie chicken
3 oz.            Good quality feta cheese, crumbled

Cook spaghetti as package directs or to taste.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, wine, chile flakes, olives, pine nuts, salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, return to pot, and add onion mixture and chicken. Stir to coat and cook over medium heat until warmed, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plates and top with feta cheese.

Monday, July 27, 2015

American Masters - Film: Inventing David Geffen

"Notoriously press and camera-shy, David Geffen reveals himself
for the first time in this unflinching portrait of a complex and
compelling man, directed, produced and written by American
Masters creator Susan Lacy. Geffen’s far-reaching influence —
as agent and manager, record industry mogul, Hollywood and
Broadway producer, and billionaire philanthropist — has helped
shape American popular culture for the past four decades."

I am a huge fan of the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) series - American Masters ever since I saw their special on Billie Jean King.  The two hour special really opened my eyes to what was happening during my high school years and how King - along with several other brave athletes - paved the way for women's tennis players to receive professional recognition and more favourable compensation at a time when women's sports was being side-lined.  I now do a search every few weeks to see if any new episodes are available and occasionally watch old ones on their website (for non-US viewers you will have to jump a few hoops). 

A few weeks ago I recorded Inventing David Geffen, which I just watched yesterday. Amazing! How did I never hear about this person before? He was intricately involved in building the career musicians I loved, producing stage productions I enjoyed and had his hand in creating movies I watched. No worries, I'm up to date now.  However, after an internet search on his name, I found lots of detractors. As with other brilliant people I have pursued biographies on - they are passionate and focused, they do everything they can to bring success to a project that inspires them and you don't want to be on their bad side. They are equally driven when they feel wronged or threatened. So there it is. 

While I am sure there is some truth to the negatives, those who he promoted became financially successful. He did as well. As one former client said, "David told me don't worry, he would make sure I made money. He would make more. And he did." One example is the Eagles. He told a soloist he should be in a band instead. The musician came back with a band and they spent two years in development until it started to pay off - becoming the Eagles. Geffen had some musicians living with him at times and always made sure those he took under his wings had their basic need were met.  He championed them during recording sessions making sure their voices were heard. BUT he did hurt several clients feelings when he sold Asylum Records. 

Some interesting notes -
1. The Joni Mitchell song Free Man in Paris (in video below) is actually about David Geffen.
2. Although he defined himself as gay, he had a two year love relationship with Cher.
3. He is one of three founders of Dreamworks along with Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

4. When he could not get a label to sign client Jackson Browne, he created his own label in 1970 called Asylum Records which recorded clients including - John Lennon, AerosmithGuns N’ RosesJackson Browne, the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Judee Sill, and J.D. Souther
5. Although from humble beginnings, his current estimated self worth is over $6 billion.

Love him or hate him, one has to be impressed with both the success he brought to others and the fact he uses his wealth to support organizations and causes he feels strongly about. Here is a short list (although not so short) - 

-- $300 million to the U.C.L.A. School of Medicine
- -$5 million towards UCLA's Westwood Playhouse
- -$100 million to Lincoln Center,
- -$1 million to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and made numerous smaller donations to a variety of organizations that focus on AIDS and cancer, as well as various health clinics in the Los Angeles area.
- -$600,000 to Parents Action for Children
- -$450,000 over the years to two Atlanta schools, the historically black Morehouse College, and the all-women Spelman College, have received.
--Smaller donations to organizations such as Read it LOUD.
--$200,000 to National Public Radio
--$25 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
--Over $200,000 to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
--LGBT, over $637,000 to the organization that has brought state and federal challenges to laws that prohibit same-sex couples from getting married
--$600,000 to Human Rights Watch has received at least $600,000 from Geffen.
--Geffen supports a variety of organizations that provide services to Los Angeles’ homeless population.
--$150,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center
--$50,000 to the American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles.

In closing, one thing he makes clear is that wealth does not bring happiness. When he hit the top, when his coffers were full, he decided chose to spend two years working with a therapist. He was not happy. Accepting who he was, including his sexual orientation, along with dealing with other struggles was important for him to come to the grounded place he is at today.

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On the American Master's program - 

"Since its premiere in 1986, this Emmy-winning documentary series has presented hundreds of hours comprising profiles of outstanding American cultural artists. Past subjects have included Charlie Chaplin, Helen Hayes, pop icon Andy Warhol, singer Billie Holliday and composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein."

For more information or to watch episodes go to -

Friday, July 24, 2015

B.C. Cranberry and Chocolate Power Cookies

The words cookie and healthy so rarely go together, but this recipe seems to be one of those great exceptions.

I can't remember where or when I originally found this - most likely in the food section of the Vancouver Sun one day.  As I was cleaning out my drafts file where I keep ideas, I re-discovered it and decided now was the time to post.

Ned Bell, the executive chef of Vancouver’s Four Seasons, is the creator of this great cookie concoction and it's one of his favourite energy snacks when he's out on the ski slopes. It's also dairy free and if you use the buckwheat flour option is also gluten free

Rarely do I post recipes I actually haven't made yet, but decided these cookies deserved the attention. I will be adding a comment on how they turn out for me soon as I am going to serve them with ice cream for our family's dinner and a movie night on Sunday - so be sure and check back. But until then, if you beat me to it and make them first, be sure and add your comments at the below.

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Ned’s Famous B.C. Cranberry and Chocolate Power Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies

2 ¼ C             Quick cooking oats
2 C                 Spelt flour (or Buckwheat Flour)
1 C                 Sunflower seeds
¾ C plus 2 T  Pumpkin seeds
½ C                Shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ C                 Flax or hemp seeds
1 C                  Brown sugar (coarse) or cane sugar
1 T                  Cinnamon
2¼ tsp             Sea salt
1¾ C               Dark chocolate chips
1¼ C               Dried B.C. cranberries or dried B. C. Blueberries
¼ C                 Water
¼ C                 Molasses (I always use dark Blackstrap for extra flavour)
¾ C                 Canola oil
1 C                  Vanilla or regular Almond or Rice Milk (original
                       recipe used Soy Milk)

Preheat oven to 350 F (170C).

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the water, molasses, canola oil and soy milk, and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together until just combined. Using 1/3 cup (80 mL) measurements, scoop onto the baking sheets and gently flatten cookies.

Bake for approximately 18 to 22 minutes, until lightly browned, do not overcook. (They are best moist and chewy.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ex_Machina - There Is Nothing More Human Than The Will To Survive

Caleb is a programmer working for Bluebook, the world's most popular search engine. He is chosen to visit the company's eccentric CEO, Nathan, at his secluded research facility in the mountains. The only other person there is Kyoko, a young housemaid. Nathan reveals he has been working on artificial intelligence and wants Caleb to administer the Turing test to a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence (AI) named Ava.

And so it begins...........

I love science fiction - movies and books - so try to watch any new offerings that come out. Ex Machina was a no brainer.  Under genre it is listed as - Drama, Mystery & Suspense and Science Fiction & Fantasy, but definitely the lasts holds the most true.

I first and foremost want to give accolades to Alex Garland as I think it's the script and directing that make this film truly stand out. Well done. The choice of set (both studio created and at the beautiful Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldalen, Norway), the filming of the scenes and the pacing of the interactions between the different characters kept me engaged. I loved that it had a slower pacing than today's usual movie offerings. Garland used dialog and interactions to draw the plot along to it's ultimate resolution. There are no prolonged, violent fight scenes, no car chases, no giant explosions - just great concept, script and directing.

There are three main characters in this movie. Caleb Smith is played by Domhnall Gleeson. He is a computer programmer who supposedly wins a company wide contest and is whisked off to the CEO's very remote mansion/lab. The strange and odd CEO - Nathan Bateman - is played by Oscar Isaac. Of the three, this is the character that just didn't mesh for me. Too out there and not quite believable in his interactions with Caleb. Lastly is the robot Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. I loved the Computer Generated Image (CGI) body they created for her, the way she used lack of facial expression and movement to create the character and the slow transition to covering the robot body to let her look more and more human.

The plot moves along quietly - something that really works because of the strong dialogue the script offers - and builds steadily at just the right pace.. I found it interesting that none of the actors really stood out on their own. Their characters were an intricate part of the script that folded beautifully into the plot. It was always a blend with no ingredients popping individually.

I think all movies are best seen without too much information ahead of time, so I don't want to share any more of the plot. I encourage you to watch this movie without expectation. If you only like action movies, this isn't for you. If you enjoy a movie with more depth and thought behind it, I think you'll find this a must see.

Alex Garland's journey to creating this movie is interesting - so I would like to offer this excerpt from Wikipedia in closing, along with 2 movie trailers.

"The foundation for Ex Machina was laid when Garland was 11 or 12 years old, after he had done some basic coding and experimentation on a computer his parents had bought him and which he sometimes felt had a mind of its own. His later ideas came from years of discussions he had been having with a friend with an expertise in neuroscience, who claimed machines could never become sentient. Trying to find an answer on his own, he started reading relevant books about the topic. During the pre-production of Dredd, while going through a book by Murray Shanahan about consciousness and embodiment, Garland had an "epiphany". The idea was written down and put aside till later."

Trailer #1

Trailer #1

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Am I Good Enough?

As anyone who knows me well is aware, I seriously struggle with self-doubt at times. It comes from growing up in an environment where who I was didn't really fit in with the expectations placed on me. I am also a bit of an odd duck. My opinions never seemed to be in line with the society surrounding me. I'm not a girlie girl, so struggled for a long time with female relationships in particular. Guys were just so much easier to be around.

On top of all the above, add in the fact I am honestly hopeless at politics. have a racing mind and an intense internal radar that picks up the emotional cues of those around me, especially the disapproving ones. So there you go - you get the picture. Not a happy kid, not a happy experience growing up.

It has taken many, many years to begin to give myself permission to embrace who I am with joy and stop trying to change into something I am told I should be.  I credit interviewing a wide variety of people with helping me find my way, but the roller coaster ride is always there waiting for an opportunity to lure me on board.

I have been reading Sue Dumais' book - Heart Led Living - and it's been an eye opener. I see myself in so many of her early stories. Not the same road walked, but similar unaccepting internal messages allowed a voice. Yesterday I was reading chapter two where she talked about her early negative inner dialogue of self-loathing and put out there, "I'm Not Good Enough!"  It hit me between the eyes like a lightening bolt.

While for the most part I have my feet firmly under me now, in unexpected moments that little gremlin of self-doubt finds a way to insert subtle negative thoughts that throw me a for a loop.  Over the past two weeks I realized this had certainly been the case - the signs were all there.  It was time to clean house and take control. I have a say in all this.

Everyone needs to find what works for them in times of dealing with self-doubt.  Laughter, loving friends, yoga, meditation, daily positive affirmations, exercise. for me putting words to paper and more all await. Most likely it will take a combination of approaches to support your efforts, but it all starts with recognizing what is happening and choosing to embrace your worth.

After over 150 interviews, I can say with positive assurance that each of us is meant to be here. That what you might feel are your negative attributes are actually talents that need to be planted in the right garden to grow. You are unique. Your are valued. You are exactly who you are meant to be.

Take that box of dreams you've put aside as impossible, open it, dust it off, open it up and have a look inside.  It's time to dream big!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

LWL 3rd Annual Summer Patio Party plus Q & A with founder Maria Kritikos

Maria by Creative Light Imaging
I can no longer remember how long ago it was that I met Maria Kritikos of Ladies Who Lunch (LWL). What was tremendously funny - and something we didn't figure out until later - was that we had a connection already. 

It was at Vancouver Fashion Week a few seasons ago that I looked across the runway to see Maria and her sister Joanna (Inspiration Mecca) sitting with someone I knew well - Anthe. Anthe works at the Fabricana in Richmond. During my five years designing and creating over 120 costumes a year, I bought endless meters of fabric from her and asked countless questions when I needed advice. It turns out Anthe is Anthe Kritikos - their mother! I only knew her by her first name, so had no idea. Life is funny like that.

For the last year, I have been trying to attend one of the Ladies Who Lunch networking events. The universe just kept interfering. I would be out of town or have prior commitments every time. Then last Sunday, I was finally able to make it happen. The event was the LWL annual patio party being held at The Arbutus Club. Everyone was encouraged to wear hats or fascinators and we would enjoy networking, a lovely lunch and a fashion show. I was excited to finally get a chance to see what this group was about.

I was offered a lovely glass of bubbly as I entered the room filled with women mixing, mingling and laughing. Smiles were in abundance and a wide variety of hats/fascinators could be seen. The table settings were truly lovely and offered swag bags for everyone in attendance thanks to
With Irene Collingwood & Anthe Kritikos
Image by Creative Light Imaging
sponsors Wanna CollectionLumiere Skin Health & Wellness CentreAbantu HairWardrobe ApparelMillion Dollar Tan Vancouver,  Cleopatra Brow BarBeauty Blvd,  Essence Of L Medi Spa & Laser Clinic, Mischievous Socialite, and English Pronunciation For Success/English In Your Pocket. I made a beeline to put down my purse and jacket at my seat with Anthe and Irene Collingwood, then took a minute to wander the room. 

Our host was the lovely Natalie Langston who took to the podium with a big smile and dressed to the nines. After a short intro, Langston introduced founder Maria Kritikos who shared with us what the day was about, who some of the sponsors were and started the event off with a mixer game - network bingo. I think this was one of my favourites. We all put our business cards in a glass bowl and then were given an empty bingo card that you had to fill out with the names of other attendees. That meant we had to get up from our "safe" table and introduce ourselves to others. Names were then drawn from the bowl until someone reached BINGO. What a great icebreaker.

Images by Michelle Morales

Over the course of the event we were treated to several small talks from Kritikos encouraging us to speak our dreams out loud and choose who we spend our time with wisely.  There was a lovely fashion show of stunning jewellery by Wanna Collection (also showing at VFW in September) and an amazing lunch where we could create our own beautiful salad from amongst a great array of ingredients. At the back of the room were several tables to peruse including a silent auction benefitting the Single Mothers' Alliance BC (founder Viveca Ellis took a few moments during the program to share with us about this great organization), a great new venture called Accept Me: Philanthropic Fashion and a beautiful display of jewellery by Wanna Collection.  I have my eye on one of her jewellery cuffs.

Images by Michelle Morales

The day ended with Kritikos offering awards for the top three hats and then a group photo - not easy to orchestrate with such a large number of women in attendance.

Want to know more about founder Maria Kritikos and all she is up to?  Enjoy this great Q and A. And just in case you wondered - the two beautiful hats Maria wore this day were created by Always On Top Hat Designs - an LWL member!

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When did your launch the Ladies Who Lunch networking group?

 The group began with our 1st inaugural event on June 8, 2013!

Images by Jean Cabral
What is the concept/focus behind LWL? 

The idea was to bring together a global community of women in business, fashion & philanthropy living their dream and helping others do the same.

I know you had a difficult moment in your life that changed your direction abruptly. Can you share a bit about that? 

At one point in my life I lost everything. Life as I comfortably knew it was no longer the same, & the rug was pulled out from under me leaving me in a less than desirable situation. But at the time, I didn't know that this traumatic experience would be my greatest gift ever. Like the expression goes, sometimes our greatest gifts are wrapped in thorns & sandpaper. 

Images by Michelle Morales

 The abrupt ending of my marriage was the catalyst for me to rise again and stand on my own two feet & show women that they too can create whatever life they dream possible, and that YES they do have the power to do it on their own. And this was one of my biggest realizations because once I was able to grasp this, I was unstoppable. Once women realize that they are the creators of their own life, destiny, financial freedom & happiness, they are truly free. It is only when you have lost everything that you are free to do anything.

Vivica Ellis of Single Mothers Alliance
 Image by Michelle Morales
I know you also work as a real estate agent. How do you balance work, motherhood and the demands of running LWL and your other enterprises? 

 We all have the same amount of time - the difference is how we use it. I prioritize and I don't have a TV anymore. I'm also up at 5am every morning and asleep by 8pm easily.

At the last event you had someone speak their dreams saying how important it is? Can you share what you meant? 

When we declare our goals & intentions to the universe a magical thing happens. The universe responds yes, and moves people, places & things to make your dream a reality. Also accountability is huge! You've now just told a room full of women who are going to hold your feet to the fire to do what you said you were going to do! You don't want to let them down do you?

What do you feel is the biggest benefit of being a part of this organization for women who are interested? 

 I always tell women, "You will meet someone in this network who will change your life." It's all about being open to the limitless possibilities that come from networking with a group of like minded, influential, supportive & powerful women.

Images by Michelle Morales

How do you join? 

Let me know where I can send your invite! Visit You can attend ONE event as a guest, but then membership is required to continue attending. We have 3 levels to choose from.

Can you share a bit about upcoming LWL event that are in the works? 

We always have our Signature Event that happens every year with our big fancy hats but we also have other gatherings such as mixers for the members to get to know each other better. We are hosting an event in September with JAC. We also have recently partnered with Holt Renfrew where we held our event in May of 2015. We have another Shop4Hope planned for November again with Holts.

Images by Jean Cabral
Please share about some of the other things you are doing, 

-Monday morning with Maria is a motivational podcast for our members only. I share business tips & strategies & what I love most inspirational & motivational messages. 

-I'm also the creator of the course Idea To Reality which helps women get into the right mindset for success - more info here:

Maria with her mum Anthe & sister
 Joanna Image by Michelle Morales
-I'm launching an online academy to help move your business forward for female entrepreneurs in business under 2 years. 

- Finally. because I'm a teacher, I LOVE facilitating my both LIVE & virtual!

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To connect, follow or learn more about Maria Kritikos -
Twitter - @maria_Kritikos
Instagram @LunchWithMaria
Twitter @LunchWithMaria (same as

Sunday, July 19, 2015




On July 18th, I threw caution to the wind and bought tickets to the R & B Allstars and friends at the Anza Club in Vancouver.  I had no idea what to expect.  I love R & B and smaller venues where you can really enjoy the performers. Glen is especially drawn to live performance. We knew given the size of the band and the size of the club it would be loud, so came prepared with light weight ear protectors. 

There was an opening act - a young indie band - who did a nice job. But let's face it, looking around at the older crowd, we were all here for the R &B Allstars and they did not disappoint. From the moment they were introduced, the audience lit up. Smiles were everywhere. Then the first song began and immediately feet were tapping, heads were nodding in rhythm and many of us were singing along to the oh-so-familiar tunes. The dance floor quickly filled with celebrants. While the number on the floor came and went all night, it was usually packed.

This large, eleven member group is filled with amazing talent. Five were vocalists and a whopping ten of the eleven played instruments. I counted three on saxophone including JP, JP, JP, JP (you had to be there). There was a trumpet player, a trombone player, three guitar players (including one of the lead vocalists), a drummer and a keyboard player. Off and on during the evening various instrumentalists were given a chance to shine and shine they did. The talent displayed was impressive.

Lead singer David Steele had charisma to match his vocals. He channeled a Blue Brothers' style all evening that was a hit with the crowd.  His partner in crime, lead singer Joanie Bye, offered us crazy high energy as she belted out her strong vocals, usually rocking her guitar at the same time. Guitarist Russell Marsland was the third frontman, adding his talent to both the instrumentals and the vocals. Loved his guitar work.

A few R&B band members stepped away from their instruments to sing for us. Trumpet player Al Lynch took the mike early on to perform one of the opening numbers. Kirsten Nash spent the larger part of the evening offering us great saxophone and backup vocals, but twice stepped up to the main mike to prove she had great vocal chops as well, including a great rendition of A Natural Woman, Kudos to both.

One thing I loved about this group and their performance this evening was it was all about the music. There was very little chatter with the audience. The set moved from one song to the next with usually no introduction. There was hardly a moment to breath between each song. I don't know how the performers handled this pace as it had to be demanding, but handle it they did with their energy just emanating in waves from stage. One song would finish and immediately we were hear the opening bars to another favourite. Hit after hit after hit kept the audience on the edge of their seats.

All night I kept thinking, I'll mention this song in my write-up - I'll mention that one. But with a steady stream of personal favourites being played, it was impossible to remember all of them. The one that I do still remember was performed shortly after their miniscule break - couldn't have been more than ten minutes. When the opening notes to I Want To Take You Higher by Sly and the Family Stone were played, I just about leapt out of my seat. I was in heaven. It took another song or two, but I finally couldn't sit still any longer and joined the packed dance floor.

This is definitely a band I will be following and on that note - I want to mention two upcoming performances -

Aug. 26th - Rocky Point Afternoon Concert 2:00 - Rocky Point Park, Point Moody

Aug. 29th - Asylum Stage, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver. For tickets click HERE

Aug. 22nd - East End Soulful Reunion with the R&B Allstars at the Croation Cultural Centre
      For tickets click HERE

Sept. 20th - R&B Allstars Return to the Two Lions at the Two Lions Public House in
      North Vancouver. For tickets click HERE

Sept. 29th - Hard Rock Casino opening for Bobby Brooks Wilson (no ticket link yet)

Dec. 31st - New Years Eve with R&B (no ticket link yet)

For more information on the R&B Allstars you can check out their website at

Check out the individual performers at

And don't forget to follow them on Facebook at

Saturday, July 18, 2015

House of Bombay Sapphire Invite-Only VIP Afterwork Patio Party

On Friday November 17th, Vernard Goud of LuvNGrace Entertainment and Adam H. Hurstfield, President at XOXO Entertainment, joined forced with Bombay Sapphire Distillery to offer a Invite-Only VIP Afterwork Patio Party in The Shangri-La Hotel's beautiful Market by Jean-Georges Restaurant. I loved the fact this event was an after work affair running from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. I come in from Richmond, so heading into Vancouver for a late night event is always a challenge.

This was my first evening event in awhile as I have been travelling quite a bit, so I was really excited to connect again with friends and make some new ones. I am also a big a fan of Bombay Sapphire (it is a fav gin of one of my family members and given often as a gift), so I was also looking forward to being a part of this evening.  Here is an excerpt from some of the company's press -

       "From the launch of our pioneering blue bottle, to the botanicals that give our gin its 
      unique taste...Based on a secret recipe from 1761, the creation of BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® 
      Gin is truly unique. There are only a few Carterhead stills remaining in the world today 
      and three are exclusive to BOMBAY SAPPHIRE...The Carterhead stills remove any last
      impurities in the spirit vapour before it passes up through the basket and in a process 
      known as vapour infusion it is delicately infused with the aromatic flavours of the 
      botanicals. The result is the complex and refined taste which gives BOMBAY SAPPHIRE 
      its extraordinary mixability."

At the entrance to The Market Restaurant, I was met by 2 beautiful women decked out in long dresses in the company's signature blue colour.  In addition to big welcoming smiles, one held a cigarette girl style tray showcasing examples of the flavour ingredients used in their signature gin as well as the new notes that are included in their Sapphire East label. The second offered me a token to receive a complimentary Gin Cocktail courtesy of Bombay Sapphire.

Music this evening was spun by Miss DJ aka Chelsea Joelle. It started nice and easy, but by the end had built to some really great songs that had our feet tapping. A few of us that couldn't sit still were up dancing. Once I mixed and mingled a bit with the crowd of familiar and new faces, I found a seat with a three amazing women. Wild stories and lots of laughter ensued.

At the table, I took a moment to check out out the complimentary cocktail choices. There were four - Sapphire East & Tonic, Sapphire Pineapple Ginger Tonic, Sparkling Sapphire and Sapphire Martini. I loved the way the company printed the drink choices on a traditional Bombay Sapphire label and then displayed it on one of their signature bottles. Great product placement. I chose the Sparking Sapphire cocktail featuring a mix of gin, strawberry, lime juice, mint leaves and Proseco. It was absolutely wonderful.  I had a second just to be sure.

While I didn't sample the menu this evening, many around me did. The food looked fabulous and I have it on good authority from my friend Victoria Clements that the fish tacos were truly delicious. Next time I'm absolutely going to have a bite.

Towards the end of the evening we were offered a tea-style fashion show by Vancouver designer extraordinaire - Nancy Perreault.  She brought body hugging sexy wear and showcased the looks on smiling, beautiful models - I personally love it when models smile. This was a great final note to the planned portion of the evening.

Shortly after the show was over it was time for me to head out, but it was obvious the party would be continuing for awhile. The vibe was high, the music great and smiles were everywhere.

If you would like more information on the House of Bombay, please visit their website at

For more information on upcoming LuvNGrace Entertainment as well as any upcoming events go to 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Do You See Me? Do You Hear Me? Do I Matter?

Wow!  I was struggling for a topic to write on today and this hit me between the eyes. I always sign up for Deepak Chopra's (along with Oprah Winfrey) free 21 day guided meditation series when they are being offered. Oprah starts with a small motivational note followed by a talk by Deepak. Then you listen to soft background music while quietly repeating the day's mantra. This series is a great tool for those who, like me, struggle to quiet their mind.

During Oprah's opening today she repeated these three questions - "Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?" To be honest, I have no idea what she said after that as I was floored. Those three questions stopped me in my tracks as I considered why I had such a physical reaction to them. What was my heart trying to tell me?  Isn't this the human condition in a nutshell? I think each of us seeks answers to these questions from the time we are born.

Do You See Me?

Who wants to feel invisible? I think wanting to know we are seen is what drives many to seek their 15 minutes of fame at any cost. Don't believe me - just check out personal YouTube videos and the current offerings on reality TV. Human beings want to know they have a place in the world and have their presence positively acknowledged by others.

My heart goes out to anyone who has to live in the shadows because of a lack of acceptance for who they are - sexual orientation, object of a bully's attentions, defined as a pariah by society, facing familial disapproval for who they are, etc. Everyone has a right to become what their birthright destined them to be. Societal norms should never interfere with someone living authentically.

Then there are those terribly shy or lacking confidence who struggle to step into the spotlight. What can each of us do to make a difference?

Do You Hear Me?

I cannot say this enough - EVERY VOICE MATTERS. It is my privilege to interview people and share their life journeys through articles. Over the last decade I have come to realize it is stories of real people living real lives that will define our generation.  Helping someone's voice be heard is an honour and privilege, but there are so many disenfranchised around the world that have no platform to help them share. I cannot do it alone. It takes many people reaching out to make a real difference.

And I truly feel sorrow when a story is lost for any reason. We all collectively lose something very precious. There is a sadness I experience every time someone with an amazing story says no to an interview. I understand, but they have so much to teach others. I try to encourage them to at least write down their story for their family

Every time you step out your front door, try to give one person you do not know the chance to share a little about themselves. Let them know their voice is heard. You never know when you're next to someone who could truly change your life. And don't forget to share your story as well.

Do I Matter?

This last question in particular really makes my heart ache. Do I matter?  I have asked myself that very question a few times in my life and answered no. Fortunately I managed to work through those times and come to accept myself and eventually recognize what I have to offer the world. Finding a purpose that makes my heart sing has helped enormously. I know what I am meant to do.

But there are some in low moments that are not able to ride out the grief of feeling they don't matter. Unless they reach out for help or someone realizes it in time, we lose them way too young.

      According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe 
      commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives 
      to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of 
      armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, 
      suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability 
      and infirmity worldwide.

In this busy era, making time for others can be difficult. But if someone is struggling, there is no better way to let them know they matter than by making time for them. Connecting through email, social media and phone are also welcome notes, especially if you don't live close by.  

Take some time this week to acknowledge those who lift your spirits. Try to let go of criticisms and instead praise your family members for their strengths. Smile at a stranger.

Do You See Me? Do You Hear Me? Do I Matter? Let each of us reach deep and answer a resounding - YES!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Healthy New Potato Salad with Spinach and Shallots

Healthy Fingerling Potato Salad with Shallots, Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Our Richmond housing strata was having a BBQ this last weekend. Everyone was to contribute something - appetizer, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, etc. I decided on my Rice Noodle and Vegetable Salad with Peanut Dressing. It makes a large bowlful, is gluten and dairy free and is a hit every time I take it. This time was no exception. There were hardly any leftovers to take home.

At the same time, I had just purchased a large bag of red and white new potatoes from Costco. There was no way I would get them all used up before they started to soften, so I decided to make a second smaller salad to give me a chance to try a new recipe. A recent email from Yummly offered a link to a healthy potato salad made with fresh spinach and shallots and featuring a dressing with no mayo and not much oil. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

The credit for this salad recipe goes to Brittany Mullins of Eating Bird Food, and she credits Rancho La Puerta - a health spa and resort - for inspiring it. It isn't crazy or unique, but a solid offering I think most people would enjoy. Nice subtle flavours and the healthy dressing are win-win for most potluck situations in general. It didn't blow everyone away the same the Rice Noodle Salad did as it's not as unusual, but everyone enjoyed it. So I firmly label it a great side dish to complement a regular meal.

The only thing I would offer is I think 8 servings listed in the original version of this recipe is not realistic in a normal dining situation. With the number of dishes we had, people each took just a spoonful of everything offered, so there was plenty. But if this was a side dish for a standard dinner of meat-potato-vegetable, I think 4-6 depending on serving proportions is more realistic.

Since I adore leftovers to eat the next day, I have doubled all ingredients. Want a smaller dish? Just cut the amounts in half again. I also changed up a few small details. Instead of boiling potatoes. I prefer to cut them in half, toss with olive oil and roast in a 350 oven. The potatoes have a more intense flavour, it keeps them from getting mushy and baking gives the skins some texture. I also prefer fresh parsley to dried, so I made that change as well. Enjoy!

= = = = = =

New Potato Salad with Spinach and Shallot
8-10 Servings (this recipe has been doubled from the original)

3 lbs         Mixed Red & White New Potatoes (or tri-colour if you can find them)
2 T           Olive Oil
4 C           Baby Spinach
1/2 C        Shallots, peeled and minced
8               Sun Dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces (see note*)
2 T           Fresh Chives, Chopped
2 T           Fresh Italian Parsley, Chopped

(*note - I used Bella San Luci sun dried tomato halves. They weren't fully dried, they were soft like a rain. Less messy that those packed in oil and still easy to chop and eat. If you use fully dried ones, you'll need to rehydrate by soaking in warm water and then draining.)

1/2 C       Red Wine Vinegar
2 T          Minced Shallots
4 tsp        Whole-grain Dijon Mustard
2 tsp        Maple Syrup
1 tsp        Sea Salt
1/4 tsp     Black Pepper
4 T          Olive Oil


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and dry potatoes, then cut in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil. Bake on a cookie sheet, turning occasionally, until tender and slightly browned. The size of the potatoes and how tightly they are packed on the cookie sheet will affect the timing - usually 30 - 50 minutes. Cool.

Place potatoes in a large serving bowl with spinach, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, chives and parsley. Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over the the potato mixture. Toss to coat. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Toss again just before serving.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator to be used the next day.