In My Life

[For the Love of ‘Fee] Fresco Percolator: Still the Perfect Perc One Year Later

I thought I would take this opportunity to share an update on my “endless search for the perfect perc”. As anyone who has been following along with me knows, the house of Sim has seen its share of coffee cock-ups in relation to our percolators, in that we can’t seem to keep them working. Check out this blogpost, and this one, AND this one for more in-depth analysis.

To recap briefly: since 2011, we have had 6 electronic percolators tramp through our kitchen, including 2 Cuisinart, 2 Hamilton-Beach, one DeLonghi, and one Proctor-Silex. Most have failed within the first year of use. It was frustrating, to say the least.

It wasn’t until we searched for a stove-top perc, that the tides changed for us in the Fresco brand percolator, purchased off of Amazon. I am here to say ONE YEAR ON, the same Fresco from last year is still in use: still functional, still very easy to keep clean, and we are still very happy with it. Best purchase ever!

Last year, within two weeks of using the Fresco percolator, I switched out the plastic top it came with for a Fitz-All glass percolator topper I bought from Home Hardware for $6. A great purchase, and helpful hack. It’s still working well. I can only imagine what that plastic topper would look like today if I kept using it…

The Fitz-All glass topper shown here “fitz” perfectly

Cleaning the Fresco perc is an absolute breeze. It’s dishwasher safe, and if I need to clean out the coffee ground basket, running it through some boiling cleaning vinegar does the trick.

Still, it does take me 20 minutes to brew a pot o’Jo with the stovetop perc. But, whatever, I’ll sacrifice my time for a good cuppa. This Fresco perc is built to last and makes a smooth brew! We are very happy with it; no looking back!

 

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[Live Music] The Watchmen – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 12/14/18

Some people will always be in your life, and no matter how long you have been apart, when you get together it’s like not a day has gone by. That is my friendship with Jenn, a special person in my life I met when we went to Western together a long time ago. Our friendship has always been effortless. It helps to have similar interests, as well as an ability to find twisted humour in practically everything; Jenn is a kindred spirit in that regard. We have always shared a love for the trifecta of Canadian 90s bands: the Watchmen, the Odds and the Headstones. These are three bands we would go to see very frequently during our uni days. We’d scrape together the scratch to buy tix at the downtown London, ON watering hole, Call the Office and be right there fighting the mosh pits to witness greatness in the front row.

The Watchmen was the one band we went to see the most frequently; at least four times in four years. It wasn’t until October 2008 when Jenn and I reunited to see the Watchmen perform at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Then, we hadn’t attended a Watchmen concert together until January 2016 when they performed at the Danforth Music Hall (which I wrote about here). And so it goes, life has been extremely busy for both of us…we hadn’t really talked again until this past September when Jenn contacted me on Facebook Messenger that the Watchmen were returning to the DMH in December…did I want to go? Umm…YES!!

The week leading up to the event, I was planning my route and making some decisions. Jenn had moved since our last concert, and there was no driveway parking like I had last time…She still lives in East York,  but just south of the Danforth where there is half street parking and half “Green P” public parking. Both can be dicy and writhe with an errant parking ticket if you aren’t careful. Yeah, driving and parking in Toronto is not fun. I can manage riding the subway, but I’d have a long ride back to my car late after the event. I decided to chance it and weather the Friday night traffic to her place and park on the street, so I could simply take off home after the show. This ended up being the best decision, and really wasn’t that bad after all.

Just some of the interesting things found at Jenn’s

I arrived at Jenn’s place to be greeted by her bright and talkative 5-year-old daughter, who is the cutest. A  hug and a homemade cosmopolitan welcomed me into Jenn’s warm and eclectic two bedroom apartment, filled with interesting things. We talked and reminisced while waiting for the babysitter to arrive, and it was certainly like old times. The sitter arrived and Jenn and I ventured into the light of the Danforth.

The last time we went to the Watchmen, we grabbed a bite at the Detroit Eatery, a greasy spoon along the strip. We decided to relive our night in 2016 and go visit it again. Fish and chips, and a brew were what we had, and they were delicious. We caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and as expected, time passed way too quickly.

We headed down to the DMH, and had missed the opening act, Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low). We had just enough time to check our coats and stroll by the merch table before the Watchmen took to the stage at 9 PM sharp.

The first song of the evening was Must to Be Free. The crowd went nuts, and so did we! The Watchmen still have it, and delivered a tight show. Their major hits were paid props including Boneyard Tree, Run & Hide, Slomotion, Incarnate, Stereo and All Uncovered. The Watchmen managed to showcase their talent, hitting the hits and adding several well-known cover songs to their set, including the Johnny Nash hit, I Can See Clearly Now, Tom Petty’s Square One, as well as Superman by R.E.M. The band also paid respect to the Hip’s Gord Downie, performing a cover of Wheat Kings, which stoked the audience. The opener, Ron Hawkins, came out and did an excellent duet with the band of the song A New England (originally by Billy Bragg; I’m familiar with it via Kirsty MacColl). This concert was really something to see and hear live…

When we had gone to see the Watchmen in 2016, Jenn and I had trouble with the Amazonian-sized dudes around us who enjoyed bathing in Axe Body Spray. Passing out from the cologne fumes, we escaped to the right side of the stage, and this action ended up being the best thing at the time. We had great line of sight, and plenty of room to dance. Would we be lucky a second time with that same spot? This evening, as the Watchmen took to the stage, we quickly rushed to the right side of the auditorium…and so did everyone else. It was a packed house with a lot of fans. We are both around the same height and obviously not 5 ft 8, but It was fine, I thought; we could see in between the heads at Danny and the boys somewhat comfortably. That was until the phones came out.

With advancements in technology and the advent of social media, a green monster has emerged, compelling users to compulsively take shot after shot – never mind video recording entire segments – of the show with their cell phones. I expect some picture-taking (I snapped a few myself), but I also hope for discretion. I was in the unenviable position of standing behind two people obsessed with their phones. I hazard they watched the entire show through their cell screens from song one…and sadly, for a portion of the show, so did I. In true Canadian fashion, instead of confronting them, I swallowed my ire and tried to ignore it. What are you going to do? I didn’t want any trouble. So, when a space next to Jenn opened up, I moved over to allow a tall dude with a fat head on my left to block my peripheral view of their phones. Huzzah!

Back to the band, do these guys drink from the fountain of youth? Lead singer, Danny Greaves has not aged in 25 years; he continues to be his trim self. Ken Tizzard was the only one whose appearance has changed – from a fine moustache, to a wicked beard with extended goatee. But, these guys are getting older; the show was done in an hour and a half, and Danny cited a “curfew” as the reason for the show ending when it did. After all with over 20 songs and two encores under their belt for the evening, these guys were allowed to “exit stage right.”

When the house lights went up, Jenn and I doubled back to the merch table one last time to check out the wares; Watchmen t-shirts were for sale, as well as some solo projects on vinyl by the band. Jenn purchased a Christmas card with a downloadable song sung by Danny with all proceeds going to charity.

Overall, this was another memorable evening with Jenn and the Watchmen. I totally look forward to more experiences with Jenn in the near future and I am also certain we’ll be going to see the Watchmen again, whenever they stop in Toronto.

[For the Love of ‘Fee] 100% Freeze-Dried and Van Houtte Colombian Light Instant Coffee

“For the Love of ‘Fee” is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

I can’t believe my luck. A colleague of mine on contract who is replacing someone on parental leave is from Colombia, and…wait for it…her dad worked in the coffee industry there. AND he knows Juan Valdez. That’s right, THE Juan Valdez. (Okay, the actor who portrayed Juan Valdez…still counts!) Her family knows coffee!

I’ve learned two things from her regarding coffee:

  1. The best coffee in Colombia is actually exported out of the country to places like North America.
  2. A lot of Colombians drink INSTANT COFFEE. Yep, they do.

That second one almost melted my brains. Really?? Why when they are surrounded by coffee, would they rather drink awful instant coffee?

Well, folks, the secret is in the type of instant coffee. My colleague says I need to look out for 100% freeze-dried instant coffee, not the average crystalized instant coffee like Folgers or Maxwell House that is predominant in the grocery store ’round here. She brought to me a jar of instant coffee straight from Colombia to “show and smell”. Turns out there are differences: the freeze-dried coffee appears lighter in colour, and more granular or chunkier than what I am used to seeing. Also, the aroma of freeze-dried is different – less acrid, more like coffee. She explained freeze dried is of much better quality than your average instant because of how it’s been processed.

Back in 2016, I wrote about my hatred for instant coffee in general. I even developed a hack to make it taste better! There wasn’t much of a choice around where I live with what was available. I had to deal with the instant coffee crystals of Folgers or Maxwell House.

Which brings me to this week’s food run…It was my usual night of grocery shopping that lead me down the coffee aisle for anything new. This is where I was delighted to find Van Houtte Colombian Light 100% freeze-dried instant coffee. The coffee is sold in a glass jar, and I immediately recognized the chunky look of the granules. Van Houtte is a Montreal, Quebec company and from experience, I know Van Houtte to make a pretty good cup of brewed coffee. To find freeze-dried instant coffee in the aisles without begging my colleague to bring me back a jar of Colombian the next time she’s home was great, but seeing the Van Houtte name was even better! I immediately put the jar into my cart.

Yesterday afternoon, I cracked open that jar and did the sniff test, comparing it to the Folgers we had stuck in the back of the pantry – of course, the freeze-dried smelled better! The Folgers smelled like someone needed to take a bath (to put it mildly). In the spectrum of instant coffee smells, the 100% freeze-dried is more like ground coffee, and definitely less acrid than coffee crystals. I made myself and the hubs a cup of Van Houtte following the directions on the jar (add boiling water or milk to granules). The results were pretty palatable. The hubs commented how smooth-tasting it was. I couldn’t help but notice the coffee smelled like COFFEE in the cup for once instead of some weird drink. After I finished my coffee, the thought crossed my mind that keeping some of this on-hand in my office would be a lot better than the Folgers I have sitting there collecting dust.

No doubt, I am not a big fan of instant coffee, but, to be constructively critical, if there was a type of instant to keep in the cupboard, 100% freeze-dried instant is the way to go…I’ve certainly tasted a lot worse in the instant coffee department! And Van Houtte Colombian Light 100% freeze-dried instant coffee is a good one.

 

[For the Love of ‘Fee] Rise Up Coffee Roasters Organic House Roast

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

The Cartridge Club Con in Chicago, July 2018

The main purpose for our travel to Chicago, Illinois this summer was to meet up with some friends from the Cartridge Club. We’ve known most of them for a long time, and some we’ve only had an online friendship. This trip, I was excited to meet the Retro Nonsense Crew, Duke and Tara, and their three children in person. They are from Maryland, and were just as excited to meet us. When we met, Duke told me he had some local coffee from Maryland for me to try; Rise Up Coffee Roasters’ coffee. He handed me half a pound bag of their organic House Roast and explained this is the place they like to go. Let me tell you, the beans did not disappoint!

Maybe it’s because we have been finishing off old freezer coffee from Kevin’s mom’s house for the last month, but when I broke into the bag of Rise Up beans, the kitchen smelled like a coffee shop! Them beans were aromatic! The bag boasts that the blend therein has chocolate undertones, and I could certainly smell that. It just smelled so good, I wanted to jump inside!

And then I ground the beans…the place smelled heavenly! The percolator did them justice, and the brewed coffee was delicious with only hints of sweet from the chocolate. Those beans permeated the house so well that even after a long day out of the house, we could still smell the coffee that had been brewed at 6 AM. I was not disappointed!

According to Rise Up’s website, they sell only 100% Organic Fair Trade coffee, which says something about who they are. In fact, their opening page says, The farmer who grew this coffee should receive the glory. We are among the fortunate who get to roast their beautiful coffees and share them with you.” Indeed!

My mug depicts Lawren Harris’s “Lake and Mountain, 1928”. Only the best for this ‘fee!

A big Thank You goes out to Duke and Tara for sharing this Maryland favourite. Kevin and I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘fee, and I can see why this has become a favourite of yours!

My Crazy Summer 2018

It’s taken me a while to get back to posting on here this summer, ’cause like last summer and the summer before: I am too damn busy in the summertime. There hasn’t been a whole lot of gaming, but a lot of other stuff happening…Rust never sleeps, and apparently neither are we at the House of Sim! This here is an abridged update of what I have been up to. It was monumental to say the least!

Part 1: A trip back home.

First stop, Sudbury, Ontario. This time last year, no one thought we’d be cleaning out a house that has been lived in for 42 years, with the plan to put it up for sale. Alas, that is what happened. My husband’s mother, newly widowed, recruited a team (us “kids”) to help her downsize and pack. Her hope is to move away to the Ottawa Valley this coming Fall to be closer to the grandkids. The majority of our time up north was spent on this emotional task, and mission accomplished; we were successful! The house is currently up for sale…but it was a backbreaking (and heartbreaking) haul. A lot of beer and chocolate were consumed. The ordeal was mostly unpleasant, but it emphasized the importance of family. Thankfully, the house was equiped with a pool so we would be able to cool off. Damn, I’m gonna miss that pool…

It wasn’t all a slog, however. We managed to step out and have some day trips around the city, including a stop at Dynamic Earth, Sudbury’s tourist destination on the history of mining in the region. I hadn’t been here since a class trip in grade 6…And, it appears they polished up the Big Nickel just for us!

I was also thankful to spend time with my family which I needed desperately. We planned a day trip that saw my whole fam jam loaded up into a mini van and embarked on a brief stint to Manitoulin Island, the geographic epicentre of my maternal heritage. This might sound morbid, but we spent our time visiting grave sites. Grimesthorpe cemetary in Spring Bay basically holds a large portion of my maternal lineage, including my Grandparents. It’s so peaceful there, the only thing you hear are the squirrels protesting you are around their domain. Then, my great uncle is buried in another quiet cemetary that has the cleanest outhouse. We rounded out the day with ice cream from Farquhar’s Dairy. These things might sound mundane, but this is the kind of subdued activity I needed.

Part 2: Get out get out get out of my house!

Clearing out my husband’s childhood home got us to thinking about our own “stuff.” Let me put it out there: My husband and I collect things. We love video games, books, movies, music and other sorts of pop culture memorabilia. We got stuff. But, after spending 12 days straight pitching other people’s stuff, it got us to thinking about our own cherished items. Are they really cherished?? We both conceded how anxious we were feeling about our own stuff cluttering up the house. A proposal was given from the hubs – let’s go through our stuff. Let’s decide what is important, let’s pitch what isn’t. Let’s lose the stuff meant for “one day…” If you haven’t touched it in 5 years, you don’t need it. We’ve lived in our current home for 12 years; we have STUFF.

My name is Sarca and I hoard books. Things haven’t gotten much better from this 2014 post, except I read around 5-10 books a year now, which is an accomplishment. Last summer (2017) I activated my Markham Public Library eBook account, which is another avenue to read…I just never stopped buying the physical copies. I know Mr. Books will have a heart attack (brace yourself Aaron…), but I packed up the majority of my books, and sent 10 boxes to the junk shop! Yes, 10 boxes. I have kept key ones from my favourite authors as well as graphic novels that will never be digitized…the rest went. It wasn’t easy, but I feel a weight lifted and some control over my stuff. I found myself looking around my house critically and asking, “What else can I lose?”

Part 3: Get out get out get out of my house!! (part 2)

Time to catch that guy!

But before the purging of our stuff began, imagine coming home exhausted from a trip up north only to find your house scattered with mouse scat. This happened. I noticed poop on the kitchen counter, and then in the living room. We then noticed our Ikea couch had been scratched up a little. We sprung into action immediately, cleaning and disinfecting every room. I wanted to clean under the beds while on vacation, I just didn’t want to clean them in such an emergency! We discovered through trial and error the little guy was living under our kitchen sink in the space between the cabinet and the floor. We can only suspect he got in through the door to the garage (we have had some issues in the past with mice on our property getting into our garage looking for seed). No food was ever eaten from our kitchen, and the mouse was eventually caught. Talk about the best case scenario of what could have been a disasterous situation.

Part 4: Chicago!

After spending less than 6 hours in Portland, Oregon and the ordeal behind such a short trip, I developed some adverse reaction to travel. I didn’t want to go anywhere, nor drive, nor navigate anywhere unfamiliar. An opportunity presented itself that would allow me to be a passenger on a trip to Chicago, Illinois to attend the inaugeral Cartridge Club Con, and I jumped at it. I rode in a van with my husband and 3 other guys and it was good times.

There were several highlights from the drive up:

A pit stop in Detroit, Michigan to Third Man Records was pretty cool. This is Jack White’s pressing plant and storefront. It oozed coolness.

We stopped for supper at a diner in Toledo, Ohio that had 20 different kinds of pie; I tried the Scutterbotch pie, which was a butterscotch pudding filling and whipped cream. Delish!

Along the way we stopped in to a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. Let me give you a short “For the Love of ‘Fee”…Dunkin’, your ‘fee ain’t worth the $2.50 U.S. for a medium. It tasted burnt, and what is with the price point; are you trying to be Starbucks? An interesting side-note – the coffee cups were made of styrofoam, which is not something we see in my area any more (ours are paper; styrofoam is not recycled).

Did you have any doubt there’d be coffee-drinking?

We stopped in to a Walmart in Elkhart, Indiana. Cheap liquor, weird sugery cereal and Chicken in a Biskit crackers couldn’t keep us away. I was most pleased to find Downy fabric softener balls which are no longer sold in Canada; I picked up three.

This pic doesn’t do it justice – over 600 cabinets!

It was exciting to go to Chicago. I got to meet up with some friends from the Club, try some Chicago deep dish pizza, and go to Galloping Ghost, a legit arcade. The unfortunate part was that there just wasn’t enough time to do any Chicago sight-seeing. We were only there for 2 days. We’ll have to go back…

Giordano’s stuffed crust pizza rocked!

Part 5: Montreal

Two weeks ago, we went to Montreal. Planning this trip was like, “It’s a long weekend…Let’s go to Montreal!” Alrighty then! The plan was to go record store shopping. I’d only driven past Montreal on the way to Old Quebec City (grade 8 class trip…), so this was going to be fun.

The hubs lined up the Hotel Brossard, a hotel off the island. We managed to get there with only one detour away from the toll road. It was a lovely hotel – King sized bed and terrycloth bathrobes! Our first night, we had sushi from a local joint; it was awesome!

The next day, we embarked on a full-day record store shopping spree. We just had to wait for the record stores to open! So, we went to see a Picasso exhibit at the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Picasso is my favourite, so I had a good time…

The record store pictured upper right is Beatnik’s

We then walked to three record stores. It was a hot one that day and none of these places were air conditioned; I never sweat so much! But, it was loads of fun and we picked up a good haul (pick up video to follow on the hubs’ YouTube channel).

The hubs also wanted some Montreal Smoked Meat. We tried to get into Schwartz’s deli, a world-famous joint, but the line was a mile long. We went across the street instead to the Main Deli. He had his smoked meat sandwich, and I had a chicken sandwich with fries. So good! We rounded out the day with some ice cream from a parlour close to our hotel.

I tried to practice my French a little while in Quebec, but no one in Montreal would have it and would speak to me in English (I suppose it was my mangled Anglicized accent that gave me away!). Overall the trip was successful, and we hope to go back soon.

And there you have it. It’s been a short summer, with a lot of stuff crammed in. I hope you enjoyed reading! What have you been up to this summer?

[Music] The Catch and Release #3

The Catch and Release showcases a choice sample of recently acquired music to my collection; some of these albums that I’ve “caught” will happily be part of my collection forever. But, there are albums that I acquired on a lark, that upon a listen or two have not resounded with me, which I have chosen to release back in the wild.
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The Catch

54-40 – Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret (1994) & Since When (1998)

Winner Winner! I loved Canadian band 54-40 back in the day, and had Fight For Love on cassette; even saw them in concert in 1989! But, that was a long time ago. Since then, I had their compilation, Sweeter Things, which has all their top ten hits from the 80s. I didn’t get much more than that which was a complete oversiiiiight! Thanks to a contest I won on KeepsMeAlive, I acquired Dear Dear (a fantastic album). Since then, I found two more 54-40 albums out in the wild, and both are great. Each has a hit played on the radio, and the rest is pretty darned awesome. I am back on the 54-40 bandwagon!

Duran Duran – Astronaut (2004)

Back in 2004, DD were planning a comeback with all five members of the band back at the helm; something fans had been waiting for since 1985. I had heard their new song, “Reach Up For the Sunrise” from Astronaut, and thought it sounded pretty catchy, but never got the gumption to purchase a copy.

I found Astronaut used at my local Care and Share, and I have to say – impressive! It’s a Duran record, for sure: cleanly produced, thoughtful and professional. But, most of all, listenable! A keeper!

Letters to Cleo  – Aurora Gory Alice (1993)

I picked this one up for a song at VV…Being a frequent listener of Radio Western’s College Radio CHRW 94.9 FM back in ’93, I remember Letters to Cleo getting some love on there quite a bit with their hit “Here and Now”. I am very impressed with this album – every song is awesome! And, a female lead, for the win!

Chalk Circle – Mending Wall (1987)

In case this band breezes past you, Chalk Circle is a Canadian band best known for such hits from the 80s as “April Fool,” “Me, Myself and I,” and “This Mourning.” Mending Wall was one of those albums that my 12-year-old self could never afford to buy, but wanted to; at least my sis and I could afford the 45s of some of their hits. This album has “This Mourning” and the lesser known adult contemporary hit, “N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Back Yard)”; the rest in between totally brings me back to 1987. Just good rough bass, some haunting guitar and a lead singer whose voice cuts through it all. I am very happy I found this one.

Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge (1988)

I took a chance on Melissa Etheridge, and I’m glad I did! Every single song on this debut album sits well. Good rockin’ tunes, and that voice! Hits from this album include “Similar Features,” “Like the Way I Do,” and the very popular “Somebody Bring Me Some Water.” Not much else to say here – no wonder she got some attention when this was released.

The Release

Toronto – Lookin’ For Trouble (1980)

I am only familiar with this Toronto band from their one hit in Canada, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” from 1982, which earned them a Juno award for best song and best songwriting. That song is catchy, and unfortunately not on this album. “Lookin’ For Trouble” was Toronto’s first release, and I can see how they were trying to get their feet wet, but it really didn’t do anything for my ears. This album has two recognizable cover songs: “You Better Run”, a Young Rascals tune done better by Pat Benatar and “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which was better done by its creator the Rolling Stones.

Erasure – Pop! Their First 20 Hits (1992)

Erasure were well-known back in the 80s for their synth pop tunes. I don’t mean to be mean, but no way does Erasure have 20 Hits. I could have sworn they had more likeable tunes in their catalogue than just “Chains of Love,” “A Little Respect”, and “Stop!” It’s ok, I got this for $1…

Metric – Fantasies (2009)

Metric has gotten a lot of love out there – including a Juno for this album, Fantasies. This one does tick some of the new wave synth pop boxes…However, I couldn’t help but turn to the hubs whilst listening to the first track and say, “Y’know, I’ve heard this before on TV…” As I continued to listen, I recognized a lot of this album, but couldn’t quite place where.

Sure enough, the media loves Metric, using their songs in everything from commercials, to video games, to the Toronto Blue Jays, to TV shows; most namely Grey’s Anatomy, a show that has used the first song from Fantasies, “Help I’m Alive,” multiple times! I’ve spun this CD several times in an effort to get into it, and I think I’m good to let this one go. I’ll just listen to Metric’s next album on this up-coming season of Grey’s!

The Gandharvas – A Soap Bubble and Inertia (1994)

More uni stories for ya: The year was 1994. My sister got a cassette sampler from a freebie table on campus during the first week of classes. The sampler was promoting the newest affordable car for students, the Dodge Neon (remember those?) and on it was a bunch of Canadian artists. I recall I Mother Earth was on it…and so was “The First Day of Spring” by the Gandharvas, a London, Ontario band who are really only known for this one song. Pretty much, they tried their best to be Canada’s answer to Blind Melon. They are not even close to Blind Melon.

I got their album, Soap Bubble and Inertia, for free on cassette a long time ago at a summer festival in London. I remember that day vividly – it was August, it was 38 C, and probably the worst bathroom experience I have ever had with an upset stomach standing in a 30 deep lineup for an already over-full porta-potty. Man alive! Probably due to trauma, I never did listen to that Gandharvas cassette.

Recently, when I picked up Soap Bubble and Inertia for $1 at my local thrift shop, I wondered if it was worth the time. This album is terrible. Really really terrible. There really isn’t much more to say about it.

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (2005)

I have had this CD since June 2014, when my colleague and friend, Mary Jo Morris, was about to embark on her retirement. She was cleaning out her office and handed off two CDs to me – Dr. John’s Gumbo by Dr. John (1972) and Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams. Random, right? Where the heck had she gotten them? She said from students. She didn’t want them. They were stuffed in a drawer in my office, and I finally got around to bringing them home.

I don’t know too much about Jack Johnson, but if I were a betting woman, I’d think he had the curb on the commercial jingles market. Seriously. Music in commercials these days grate on me. Take an out of tune piano, an acoustic guitar, a ukelele, a xylophone and soft singing voices, and you have captured 95% of the music in commercials these days, and what Jack Johnson’s album In Between Dreams is about. Sorry, Mary Jo, I did not like this either. Hard pass. Dr. John is a keeper though!

More to come…Thanks for reading!

Sarca’s Got a Brand New Bag

I was raised in an environment where you hang on to something until it breaks or wears out, or it no longer has a useful purpose. My Mom had the same living room furniture for 30 years until she decided to reupholster it. She never felt the need to replace it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mom is an extreme example of preservation, and here I find myself living by her example. I have used the same backpack for the last 24 years and until recently, never saw any reason to replace it. It has seen me through all my degrees, diplomas and certificates, it has seen me navigate jobs, and trips…and up until last week, it carried my lunch, work shoes, sweater and anything else I needed to take to make my workday more comfortable.

Backpack from 2013

I remember the day in April 1994 when I bought this bag. I had just finished up my last painting studio class of the Winter semester at the University of Western Ontario, and what I would often do is reward myself with a jaunt to downtown London to decompress and do some browsing. I hit up City Lights Bookshop on Richmond St. I then rounded the corner down King St to Novacks, known as London’s most interesting store back then. It was an army surplus camping store that was indeed a very interesting place to shop. That day, they had a Spring sale on day packs – 40% off. I wasn’t on the market for a bag, really. The one I was using was fine, if a little small…Call it an impulse buy, but one of the day packs on the rack caught my eye, and that was it – I bought it. $60.

 

The make of the bag was Pine Ridge, a London, Ontario company that gave a lifelong guarantee on their bags. If something broke like a zipper, they would fix it. Unfortunately, Pine Ridge no longer exists, much like Novacks. A damn shame.

No matter, that bag and I were inseparable, and I never had a problem with it. I loved it! This was the first hiking type backpack I ever owned. It had two large openings, travel mug holders, a sernum strap, a waist strap and enough room to accommodate everything from a week’s worth of stuff for a trip on the bus to Sudbury to all my big heavy art supplies.

As the years went by, my bag took a beating, but a little run in the washer would fix it right up. Like anything, however, it wasn’t getting any younger. In February 2013, I brought my famous* chili to work for lunch and carried the container in my bag. What is now known as the Chili Lunch Explosion of ’13, I arrived at work to find most of the lock top container that housed my food unsealed and leaking all over the interior. It was bad. Having a 19-year-old bag at this stage, I thought for sure this incident would have been its demise and I’d end up pulling the dead pieces of my bag from around the agitator in the washing machine. Nope! To my surprise, the bag cleaned up nicely. Aside from some fraying around the straps – which I fixed – the bag was good to go for another round of trips and adventures.

The bag today, and the material I am left with

Nothing lasts forever. As the years went by, the bag started to look its age and people were beginning to notice. The straps I fixed were slowly fraying more and pulling away. The left strap had less than an inch of material holding it to the rest of the bag. It was time to face it: I needed to locate a replacement.

The search for a new bag actually started a couple of years ago, but I struggled to find anything comparable. Speed it up to six months ago, I was very actively searching for a new bag. I aimed high, budgeted realistically, and looked for similar features as my present bag. Still, I could not find anything. I went more expensive, and aside from paying a ridiculous ransom for a bag, I still failed to find anything. The trouble was I got used to having a bag with both a sternum and a waist strap. These features are important to me to better distribute the weight of the bag on my shoulders. Sure, I could find both these features in a bag, but the bag would be too big, or there would be no cup holders, or the inside was too small, or I’d be spending $400 for a bag. I’d give up the search, pick it up again, and give up again. I was a veritable Goldilocks of backpacks! The Hubs finally said that I need to just decide on something. It would be alright. “You may not get what you’re looking for, but that will be okay. Just make a decision. It will be the right one.”

*SIGH.* “O-kayyyy.” *Pout*

In the light of day, it occured to me: you know who says that about decision-making? Sarca.

…Jesus, I need to start listening to ME!

Two weeks ago I took a weekend and pounded it out. I finally purchased a bag. I honed in on one from Mountain Equipment Co-op, a Canadian company that sells outside gear. A Patagonia Refugio 26 Litre backpack. It ticked all the boxes except for there having no waist strap. Meh, what are you gonna do. It has the sternum strap and the cup holders. Quite a generous-sized body, with a place inside to put a laptop, and inner pockets for other junk. The Refugio has a slender fit for women, and a lot of padding on the straps and back. And, unlike my old bag, it sits upright on the floor. This bag has been in my life for over a week, and it’s turned out to be pretty damn good. I made a decision; it ended up being the right one.

The sad remnants of my old bag currently lie on the floor of my living room. I am not sure what to do with it now. It seems sad to throw it away. Maybe I’ll burn it ceremoniously in a funeral pyre? It had a lovely life, saw me through my shit while carrying my shit. Now this ol bag gets to make new adventures with a new bag.

*Famous in four Ontario cities. #truth