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Joshua Bell Concert in Edmonton

Violinist Joshua Bell is a classical music icon and legend, and is certainly one of the most celebrated and familiar violinists in the world. He continues to amaze audiences and attract accolades for his talent and career that spans over 30 years.

If his name or legacy doesn’t ring a bell (pun definitely intended), perhaps you’re familiar with the renowned experiment conducted by Gene Weingarten at The Washington Post in 2007. In Pearls Before Breakfast, Weingarten details how Bell staged a nondescript and unannounced performance at a metro station in New York, going virtually unnoticed and garnering only $32 from passersby for a performance that people would normally pay hundreds of dollars to see in a concert hall.

Bell’s famous violin, a 1713 Huberman Stradivarius, is integral to Bell’s career with its own impressive history. As Bell himself writes, “it is overwhelming to think of how many amazing people have held it and heard it . . . I am always touched to think . . . of the musicians Huberman saved from the Holocaust — with funds raised by concerts performed on the very same instrument I play every day”. Bell says he considers it an honour to be the Huberman’s caregiver on its 300th Birthday this year.

Joshua Bell performs in Edmonton September 24, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Winspear Centre.

Joshua Bell performs in Edmonton September 24, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Winspear Centre.

Bell will be performing at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton for an exclusive engagement — one of the only Canadian tour dates this year — on September 24, 2013, which marks his first return to the city since 2008. Playing alongside the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO), Bell’s performance will include Tchaikovsky’s beautiful Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35.

Bell says he was first in Edmonton over 25 years ago near the beginning of his career “around the time the mall had just opened up”. Ah, the still-defining West Edmonton Mall. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Edmonton,” Bell says. “In the past I’ve been very impressed with the ESO, it’s a very good orchestra for a city of that size. I’ve found that Edmonton’s commitment to the symphony and to the arts is very good, it’s very commendable, and it really stands out in an unexpected way. Playing with the ESO is memorable.”

Bell has spent the summer touring different cities and says playing in a variety of cities is an opportunity to refresh familiar pieces and prevents him from getting burned out. “I may be playing a piece I’ve done a lot of times — I’ve performed the Tchaikovsky concerto over 35 times this summer, it’s just one of the standards of the repertoire that is really wonderful to play — but with a new orchestra to play with and a new conductor, it always allows for a new take on the piece which is good. The audience’s reaction is also very unique and their energy and response adds to the performance.”

Those without a referent to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35 may have no idea what such a performance entails, but one need not be familiar with Bell’s style or any classical music to enjoy the upcoming performance. “The nice thing about the Tchaikovsky concerto is that it does two things,” Bell says. “Classical connoisseurs will be familiar with it as a work of genius, it has so much in it and they’ll adore the piece. Then someone who may have never even heard classical music before will be immediately drawn to the piece.

“[Tchaikovsky’s concerto] is engaging, it’s a good entry way pieces because you can immediately fall in love with it. You don’t need any prior knowledge or technical interest to enjoy it, it’s very easily likeable upon first hearing it. It’s a very visceral and exciting and beautiful piece, it’s one that gets the adrenaline rushing and is just so engaging. Even for kids or teenagers who have ever only gone to rock concert before and think this sort of music is boring, I say… come to this one! It’s different than what you might think of classical musical; it’s one that will get you excited and engaged.”

If that still seems daunting, most audiences will be familiar with the music on Bell’s forthcoming holiday album, Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends. Bell says he decided on a holiday theme for the album because the holidays have always been very important to him. “The Christmas holidays were always just a special, significant time for family and friends, we’d get together and exchange gifts and play music together. The album is more than just Christmas songs but it still has a holiday feel.” Bell says he really liked the formula of his 2009 album At Home with Friends where he collaborated with some recognizable artists — and, appropriately, friends of his —   from all different genres to make a “soiree of music”. “I brought that same idea to the holiday album, that lovely collaborative aspect of performance, to play some Christmas songs and some just related to holidays.” The album features performances with Gloria Estefan, Alison Krauss, Kristin Chenoweth, trumpeter Chris Botti, and opera stars Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming.

Joshua Bell performs with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Winspear Centre on Tuesday, September 24, 7:30 pm. Tickets available at www.winspearcentre.com or 1-800-563-5081.

Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends will be available on October 15, 2013 from Sony Masterworks.

— Breanna Mroczek

Edmonton Home and Interior Design Show: Tips with Jillian Harris and Todd Talbot

Photo courtesy Milner, W Network

Photo courtesy Milner, W Network

Perhaps you’ve finally decided to tackle that big renovation project you’ve been putting off, or maybe you’re wanting to freshen up a space in your home. Whatever the case, the Edmonton Home and Interior Design Show October 4 – 6 at the Edmonton Expo Centre, is the perfect event to find what you need to follow through with your plans for building, renovating, or changing up your home and garden decor. A wide variety of products, services, and contractors will be available, and there will be design presentations from industry experts, including real estate investor and contractor Scott McGillivray from HGTV’s Income Property.

Not sure where to begin your renovation plans? Get inspiration from interior designer Jillian Harris and real estate guru Tim Talbot, the hosts of W Network’s Love It or List it Vancouver whose second season premiered in September 2013. “Viewers will see more of my involvement in the design process than last year, and the show has a more natural, organic feeling to it, ” Harris says. “I’d say the second season is a lot more engaging for the average viewer to watch.” Jillian and Todd will also be appearing at the Calgary Home and Design Show, September 19 – 22 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, AB.

“You spend most of your time in your home,” Talbot says, “so you want to make the space a place that you love and that you want to come home to, where you actually enjoy spending time.” So, when should you renovate and when should you sell and start over? Though the two compete on the show, they say the concept is really about considering options for obtaining a place you love and that both strategies are good ones, just appropriate at different times. “Some people just have an attachment to their homes or community and do not want to move,” Jillian says, “and in that case you have to make your home work for you; renovations can help you achieve the look you want. Other times people are just over their home or want to upgrade, and in that case it’s just better to sell and look for something new.” Talbot adds that travel time between work and home should be a factor: “If you don’t like having a long commute, then no renovation project is going to change that. Likewise, if you bought your home thinking you would have a family of four and then you ultimately have a family of six, suddenly you have a square footage issue and it just makes more sense to sell and move than to renovate.”

Here are some of Jillian and Todd’s tips for tackling home renovations to keep in mind while you’re at the Home and Interior Design Show:

1. Plan: Harris says that people put off renovations – even small projects like hanging up artwork – because they haven’t planned out the overall look they are trying to accomplish and get deterred from starting, to the point where numerous projects pile up. “There are so many great resources for design inspiration like Pinterest and home design television shows,” “Jillian says. “Use these to get a vision and decide on the exact look you’re trying to achieve, so when you start to invest in changes and updates, everything you buy will contribute towards that ‘look’. Don’t just go to Home Depot and try to decide on paint colours there”.

2. Make Good Renovation Investments: Harris cautions people to avoid trends in colours, and suggests you can’t go wrong with sticking to neutral colours and pastels: “When I first got into design, I would use orange and green paint all the time,” Harris laughs, “and now I think white and cream are the most awesome colours. They give any room a classic look, and won’t become outdated. Stick to simple styles for structural elements – walls, cupboards, countertops, flooring – and have fun with room accents like artwork, pillows, and curtains, that you can change easily and more cheaply.” Talbot adds that when you are trying to sell your home, you want to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, and using bold coloured paint or wallpaper might deter some people. He agrees with Harris that structural elements should be kept simple, and people can have fun with decor, art, and furniture to spruce up a room. “That said,” Harris adds, “you’re trying to create a space that will make your heart tick, you’re not trying to win a design award. So if you’re a wild and crazy person, go for it: express those traits in your design.”

3. Quick/Inexpensive Design Tips: If you don’t have the money to do a complete home renovation, Harris and Talbot suggest tackling some small projects can make a big difference. “Kitchen or bathroom renovations can be very expensive; painting is a relatively inexpensive project – especially if you do it yourself – that completely refreshes a space and makes it seem more updated and modern,” Talbot says. “Investing in storage solutions and organizing your clutter is a good way to make a room look sleeker,” Jillian adds. If you can afford one big project but aren’t sure where to invest your money, Talbot recommends buying good quality (moderate to high priced) hardwood – not laminate – flooring. “The first thing people notice when shopping for a new home is the flooring,” Talbot advises, “so not only will it update the look of your space but it will eventually yield a high return on investment. Get rid of carpet! Get rid of cracked, stained linoleum.” If you are looking to sell your home and don’t want to put a lot of money in to renovating it, Jillian says that the look of a space can be improved immensely by simple fixes like cleaning and removing clutter and personal artefacts from a space before showing your home. “People underestimate the power of cleaning products and dusting!” Jillian exclaims. “And potential buyers want to imagine themselves in the new space, which is easiest with an open, fairly empty space.”

4. Return on Investment: If you want to renovate your home but know that you are likely to eventually sell it, Talbot suggests spending your money on kitchen and bathroom renovations. He says these are two rooms which get noticed first by new buyers, and any renovations here will certainly increase the value of the home. 5. Don’t Get Discouraged: Harris indicated that it takes about six weeks to complete a home renovation on Love It or List It, but that all of the projects done each episode would typically take about six months to complete: “we work with a huge team of contractors, builders, and designers to really blitz the project for ‘TV time’, and so we have more people involved than you typically would if you were doing home renovations on your own”. Thus, don’t get discouraged if your renovation projects are taking awhile to complete – if you’re planning on living in your home for a long time, the time invested in turning it into a pleasant space will be well worth it!

The Edmonton Home and Interior Design Show is October 4 (2pm – 9pm), 5 (10am – 8pm) and 6 (10 am – 5 pm) at the Edmonton Expo Centre (7515 116 Ave.) Adult $12; Senior/Student $10; Children 12 and under are free.

Watch Jillian and Todd host Love It or List It Vancouver on W Network, Wednesdays at 10 pm EST/PST. 

Interview with Kristen Sarah of Hopscotch the Globe

Toronto-based travel blogger and actress Kristen Sarah started her blog, Hopscotch the Globe, two years ago, after she already had quite a bit of global travel under her belt. She’s added more than a dozen countries to her list since then, has logged more than a year of combined travel time and spent 10 months travelling the world non-stop in 2011.

Her videos may be what most differentiates Kristen’s blog from other travel diaries. As an actress, she’s a natural performer and posts comedic, informational travel videos every week. In her So You Want to Travel the World video series she shares tips on round-the-world travel, like how to budget for a round-the-world trip (while still eating five meals a day) and what to pack—in which she amazingly fits everything into a single carry-on. (more…)

Meet Rick VanSickle: Wine Writer and Niagara Wine Region Expert

In the 1990s, few wine writers were focusing on Canadian wine. Rick VanSickle, then the executive Sunday editor for the Calgary Sun, was a frequent visitor to Okanagan Valley wine region from his then home in Calgary and when the wine writer position at his paper became available in 1999, he snatched it up himself (it helps to be the boss!) and started peppering his wine coverage with stories about homegrown wine varieties. He later branched out, writing wine columns in Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg, and eventually moved to his current  home in St. Catharines, Ontario (he’s a Toronto native), to focus on the Niagara wine region. (more…)

Meet Vancouver Food Writer Tim Pawsey

Tim Pawsey likes to say that he’s been writing about food and wine for 25 kilos. That badge of honour wasn’t achieved overnight: he has worked as a wine, food and travel writer for 25 years to get there. A longtime resident of Vancouver’s West End, he specializes in B.C. cuisine, but has been known to dip into other areas of Canada and—in terms of wine, especially—around the globe.

Tim’s food-and-wine-writing career started with a bang: a three-month race around the world with Charles Heidsieck Champagne. Today, Tim frequently judges wine competitions (such as the Okanagan Wine Festival) and is a frequent contributor to Where Vancouver magazine. (more…)

Meet Moose Travel Network Guide Brian Lihou

The Moose Travel Network is a Canadian tour company that buses young and “young-at-heart” backpackers to locales throughout Canada and the U.S. for adventures like sea kayaking in Cape Breton; luge-ing in Mont Tremblant; horseback riding in Banff; and bungee jumping in Whistler.

Brian Lihou has worked for Moose Travel East as a guide since 2007. He started guiding tours in Niagara Falls and Algonquin Provincial Park and graduated to larger tours through Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and the U.S. He’s on the road with Moose Network tours almost nonstop between May and October and often in his “off-season” as well. (more…)

Meet Food and Travel Writer Cinda Chavich

Cinda Chavich knows food, and Canadian food in particular. She has 30 years of journalism experience—20 of them as a food and wine writer—under her belt and  is a regular contributor to Avenue magazine (Calgary), West magazine and the Canadian Tourism Commission Web site. She is the cooking columnist for Alberta’s CBC radio and has written five cookbooks, including bestsellers High Plains: The Joy of Alberta Cuisine, The Girl Can’t Cook and The Guy Can’t Cook.

A product of the Prairies, Cinda was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, and has lived in Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Calgary. As we speak, she’s pulling up her deep Prairie roots to set up shop in Victoria, B.C. (more…)

Meet Outdoor and Adventure Travel Writer Meghan J. Ward

Meghan near Everest Base Camp in Nepal (Photo: Paul Zizka)

Adventure travel specialist Meghan J. Ward lives in one of the best locations on the planet for outdoors enthusiasts: Banff National Park. The content specialist for Banff Lake Louise Tourism, editor of Canadian Rockies culture publication Highline Magazine, and freelance writer for Parks Canada, Travel Alberta and numerous outdoors publications, Meghan is someone you want to listen to if you’re planning a trip to Canada’s adventure capital. You can also read her musings on everything from waterproof sneakers to climbing Mt. Everest at her blog, The Campsite.

Born in Calgary and raised in Ottawa, Meghan headed back west for summer jobs in Banff during university and relocated to Banff for good in 2008. She travels extensively throughout Canada (to six provinces and Nunavut in the past two years alone!) and recently spent nine weeks in Nepal, where she hiked to Everest Base Camp and through Upper Mustang, among other adventures. (more…)

Meet Travel Writer Carolyn Heller

Carolyn B. Heller is one of those veteran travel writers you want to talk to, whether you need advice about travelling in Ontario or China. In her more than 15 years as a professional travel writer she’s authored or contributed to more than 50 guidebooks for Avalon Travel, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and Zagat and covered destinations in more than 40 countries across six continents. (more…)

Meet Travel Writer Mariellen Ward of BreatheDreamGo

Read a bit of Mariellen Ward’s blog BreatheDreamGo and you quickly realize this is not your average travel blog. She specializes in the transformational and meaningful aspects of travel. Her own travel awakening came with the fulfillment of a lifelong dream in 2005: six months travelling in India, which she says completely changed her life, and she now refers to India as her “soul culture”. One of those life changes was the evolution of her career from corporate writing and editing to travel writing and editing. (more…)

Meet Rebecca Bollwitt of Vancouver Blog Miss604

Perhaps better known as Miss 604, Rebecca Bollwitt is a prolific Vancouver-based blogger who clues her readers into daily happenings in and around Vancouver, writes about short getaways from the city and shares interesting tidbits about the Vancouver’s history (including daily city archives photos).

She’s been at it since 2004 and in that time has been voted one of BC’s Top 100 Women of Influence by the Vancouver Sun and received various accolades for her blog, including Best Vancouver Blog by local weekly the Georgia Straight for three years in a row.

Rebecca also operates a WordPress design and development firm, sixty4media, and has written a book, Blogging to Drive Business, being released in its second edition this fall. (more…)

Meet the Montreal Food Blogger Behind This Is Why We’re Fat

Some of the many mouthwatering food photos from This Is Why We're Fat

Montreal food blogger Erika David says the most important qualification in her bio is that “I LOVE to eat!” Her passion for food and for her native city of Montreal definitely come across in the restaurant reviews on her blog, This Is Why We’re Fat, which she started in December 2010.

Each review is accompanied by multiple mouthwatering close-ups of food. We also love the lack of pretension: she covers everything from “crummy hole in the walls to stuffy, stuck-up eateries” and doesn’t mince words when highly rated places fall short of expectations. (more…)