Sunday, January 30, 2011


Growing up in the country, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to go to concerts. Well, unless of course you count community, school or local church based concerts and talent nights. There were also the performers that would travel the country fair circuit and do live grandstand shows in the evenings. Okay, yes I know those are all technically considered as concerts, but the concerts I’m talking about are the ones with performers that I would have heard on Winnipeg’s top 40 radio stations – CKRC and CKY - or seen on TV. The artists who toured the country or even the world!

I honestly don’t remember whether many of the artists of my youth even came to Winnipeg. I’m sure many of them did, but I just never really thought about going to see them live. As a teen, there were many performers that I would love to have seen in concert, but I never had the money or a ride to get to a concert in the city. I was reasonably content to hear them on the radio, see them on TV and buy their latest 45 or LP.

My first BIG experience with concerts was the summer of 1977. I went to a weeklong Christian Artists Music Seminar and Camp at Estes Park, Colorado. That was the first time I was ever on a plane or been that far away from home by myself! The days were filled with seminars and workshops. Every evening there was a 4 hour plus concert with a variety of some of the biggest Christian artists of the time. The music was amazing! I came home with a suitcase full of cassettes and LP’s!

By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I’d pretty much given up on top 40 and really wasn’t listening to much Christian music either. I’d turned more to country and a bit of folk.

One of my favourite groups from the early 1980’s was a local trio Elias, Schritt and Bell. They got some local radio air time and played regular gigs at what is now the MTC Warehouse. The seating wasn’t that comfortable in those days, but the guys had such great harmonies and musicianship that none of the fans really minded. My friends and I went to their shows at least a couple of times a month! Sadly, their album was never picked up by a national distributer so they didn’t get the full recognition they deserved.

During the 1980’s I went to a number of country concerts. Some of the performers I saw were; The Statler Brothers (twice), Alabama, Don Williams, B. J. Thomas and Eddie Rabbitt! I’m sure there were more than that but those are the only ones that really stood out for me!

Like most people, my musical tastes changed as time went on. In the late 1980’s and during the 1990’s I went to a lot of concerts – mostly folk but also some pop and jazz. The folk artists ranged from Connie Kaldor, Ferron, Heather Bishop, The Wyrd Sisters, Eric Bogle to James Keeleghan and Oscar Lopez.

Those folk concerts were all at the West End Cultural Centre on Ellice Avenue. The building used to be a church before it became the WECC. The venerable venue has been around since 1987 and has hosted countless events. The WECC formed as a venue that would be offered to the arts and entertainment world. It hosts concerts, literary events, socials, meetings and any number of other events. A few years ago, the aging venue was in dire need of a physical overhaul to update its aging facilities and structural failings. The venue itself closed as it underwent a complete renovation in 2008/2009 but the events continued at other venues. The renovated building now has two venues – a small venue for about 80 people and the main room that can seat up to 380 depending on the layout. I hadn’t been to the centre since the remodelling but was impressed with what I had seen in the photo gallery on their web site.

I went to see jazz artists Tuck and Patti twice! I got to see several big name Canadian acts such as Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen and Holly Cole. I went to see Barenaked Ladies at least twice and Moxy Früvous three or four times!

Yup – my tastes were diverse! They still are!! Unfortunately, my finances just didn’t allow me to keep going to all the concerts that I would have liked to go to. I don’t even recall what the last concert was that I went to but I think it was sometime in the late 1990’s!

There was another reason I didn’t want to go though. Because of my low vision, I had to sit pretty close to the front – like within the first 2 or 3 rows or I couldn’t see anything. Anything further back and I might as well have been sitting in the back row or listening at home. The tickets at the front are almost always priced quite high as you are paying for the privilege of sitting that close to the performers but many of those were just way out of my price range.

The ones that were rushed seating, posed another problem. Some venues allowed patrons to make special arrangements for preferred seating for the disabled. That wasn’t possible everywhere though so if I didn’t get there REALLY early I’d end up too far back to see anything. Sure, being there in the midst of a live concert was fun and you felt the electricity and enthusiasm of the audience but I wanted to see some of the stage and performers as well.

The part that annoyed me the most though were the concerts where I did shell out my limited resources for the prime seats only to have people from the cheap seats rush the stage and stand there for the entire concert blocking the view of anyone who was sitting in the first few rows. Security would block them from getting on stage but never forced them back to their seats. Complaining to management was pointless as they didn’t want to deal with angry fans. What was the point of paying good money for an actual seat at the front if you were going to be usurped by a bunch of cheapskates with no respect for other concert goers? I pretty much quit going to concerts after that.

There have been lots of concerts that I would LOVE to have gone to in the last 10-15 years. Artists like: Tony Bennett; Michael Bublé; Diana Krall; Rod Stewart; James Taylor; Bette Midler; Paul McCartney; Chicago; The Eagles; Crosby, Stills and Nash. Artists such as Meaghan Smith, Roy Forbes, The Chenille Sisters, Alice Peacock, Allison Krauss, kd lang, Melody Gardot and Linda Ronstadt would also be part of my "concerts to see" wish list! I’d also love to see some of the artists that I’d seen in the past again: Ferron, Leonard Cohen and Tuck and Patti to name a few.

Another artist that I had really wanted to see again was Connie Kaldor. I have several of her CD’s and have always enjoyed her voice and presentation. A couple of weeks ago I got that opportunity but I will save that for the next post!


Sunday, January 23, 2011


I don't know about you, but when I was a kid I loved playing in the snow and making snowmen. We all know the story of Frosty The Snowman and I'm sure that at some point most of us wondered what kind of personalities our own snow creations would have had. Well, luckily there have been creative cartoonists out there that have taken that very idea and put it to paper. A couple of years ago, I shared several of the creative snowman cartoons from Calvin and Hobbes.

Today, I want to share some of the works from Tundra.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

dn's Scalloped Potatoes

I’ve been kind of hungry for scalloped potatoes for awhile but just never seemed to have the extra time needed to make them. It's not that much extra work, but I just never felt like doing all the slicing. Sure I could have pulled out my food processor and done it in a couple of minutes - but then I would have had to clean it and ... well ... that also seemed like to much work so I just didn't do it.

When I finally did get around to making them this past weekend, I couldn’t find my old recipe so I decided to wing it and just see what happened! I've never been good at making cream sauces or rues from scratch, so I opened the cupboards and the fridge and looked for ingredients that I thought would make an interesting blend of flavours.

Luckily I made notes as this turned out to be absolutely fabulous and very flavourful!! The mushroom soup and Monterey Jack cheese keep it very creamy. The Ranch Dressing and the sour cream give it just a bit of zip. Lots of onion and a bit of seasoning just to put the final touch on it all. Oh, and I also used low fat or fat free versions of the soup, dressing, sour cream and cheese so this is pretty much guilt free comfort food!

I served it with mini meatloaves and some baked squash! Talk about a perfect meal for a winter evening!

mmmmm.... so good!!

dn's Scalloped Potatoes

4 medium white/russet baker potatoes (about 1 1/4 -1 1/2lbs)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup (low fat and low sodium)
1/3 cup light Ranch Dressing
2/3 fat free sour cream
1 cup grated light Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Spray a 2 quart/litre deep baking dish with Pam. Wash and pat dry the potatoes. (Do not peel the potatoes) Slice into very thin slices. Chop the onion and set aside. Combine the last 6 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Spread 1/4 of the potatoes evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with 1/4 of the onions then 1/2 cup of the cream soup mixture. Repeat layers - finishing with the remainder of the cream soup mixture. As you are layering, try to spread the layers out as evenly as possible without disturbing the layers below. This will make for maximum coverage and more even cooking.

Cover with lid or foil and place on a foil lined baking sheet in a pre-heated 375F oven. Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and continue baking for about 45 more minutes or until potatoes test done with a fork. Serve with a meatloaf or baked ham and a vegetable or salad.

Makes 4 servings

- You could use other types of potatoes and peel them if you wish but I prefer russet potatoes and love the skins so why peel off the extra nutrients?!
- Other white cheeses or creamed soups could also be used but this is my favourite combo.
- This recipe will boil over in the oven so putting the dish on the foil lined baking sheet eliminates a lot of clean up!



Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Bad Apple Could Have Spoiled The Whole Bunch

Over the last few weeks, I’ve slowly been sorting through my possessions and getting rid of the things that I don’t want, don’t need, doesn’t fit or is just too hard to keep clean and orderly.

In that process, I got rid of most of my old furniture so have been looking in stores and on line to replace them with items that are a lot more ergonomic, comfortable, attractive and reasonably priced.

About a week before Christmas, I decided that I wanted to find a small storage ottoman. I wanted one in black in either leather or a faux leather so it would be easy to clean. I checked out several online sites for local furniture stores and found one that looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. It was relatively small and compact at 17”x17.5”x17”. The lid was reversible with padding on one side to use as a seat/foot rest and the other side was flat to use as a serving surface. Inside was a smaller cube ottoman.

It wasn’t on sale but was still a fairly good deal at $79.00. The problem was that I didn’t have that much extra money at the time as I had just hit a really great deal on two leather chairs. So, I decided to just bookmark the page and check it after Christmas to see if it was part of a boxing week sale. I continued to check other sites and stores but nothing else really appealed to me.

Boxing Day, I checked the site and sure enough - the ottoman was on sale for $49.00! I wasn’t about to order it online though as the chain charged $50 for delivery on orders under $500! Yikes! Besides, I hadn’t seen it in person so wasn’t sure of the quality. I called a friend who lives on that side of the city and asked her to check it out. She knows my taste and what I was looking for so I trusted her judgement.

She went over to the store Monday morning and asked a sales person about the ottomans and said she wanted one in black. He pointed out where they were and said that was what was available. He never offered to check if there were more in the back or even see if more were coming in. Needless to say, my friend was less than impressed. She left empty handed and called me with the tale.

I thought that was odd as the website indicated that the item was available for pickup in the colour I wanted at the store I had indicated. I called the store and asked to check product availability. I was transferred to a nice gentleman, who informed me that two of the black were in stock but they could not be put on hold.

I called my friend back and said I would try and get it online and request customer pickup to avoid the delivery fee. When I filled out the online form, it said the earliest I could pick the item up was Wednesday. Huh? I called the store back and spoke with the woman who answered the phone. I explained what had happened with my friend and the attitude of the sales person. She was appalled that the sales person had been so rude to a potential customer regardless of how much they may spend.

I also told her about my phone call a few minutes earlier and asked if I could purchase it over the phone and have my friend pick it up shortly. Normally they will only take orders up to $50 over the phone and the balance would be paid in person - but because of the circumstances and the mistreatment of the first sales person, she made an exception. The total would only be a little over $50 anyways. She took down my info and said she would call me back after confirming the item was in stock. Sure enough she called me back 10 minutes later and we completed the transaction over the phone. She apologized again for how this had all been handled. She gave me her name and asked that my friend speak with her directly when she returned.

I called my friend back and she returned to the store a short time later. When she got back to the store she went directly to the front counter and asked for the woman I had spoken with. Turns out, that the woman had noticed my friend when she had been in earlier – they had made eye contact. She also apologized to my friend for how she had been treated. She also asked my friend to point out the sales person in question from a wall display of sales people photos – which my friend did. The woman also told my friend that she had placed a customer comment/survey form with the invoice and asked her to fill it out.

Good customer service should be a given in any area. Treating your customers and clients equally and fairly can earn you lifelong consumer loyalty. Unfortunately one negative experience with a bad employee or an employee having a bad day can turn you off an entire store or chain. One bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch.

Being polite to all customers isn’t easy either - but you are a reflection of the business that employees you. If you treat your customers poorly, don’t expect us to come back – let alone recommend your store/service to anyone else down the road. You cannot judge a customer on their appearance or what they wanted to purchase. A $50 ottoman may not have seemed worth your effort but you never know when that same person (or someone they know) may be in the market for a much more expensive item. A customer is a customer whether they spend $5 or $5,000 and you wouldn’t have a job without our business.

I’ve had countless experiences with customer service over the years. Luckily most of it has been good – and I always express gratitude for good service. I’ve written about great service here in the past. (“Good Service Is Good Business” “Microwave - Part Two”)

Unfortunately, I’ve also had bad customer service. Whenever possible I try to bring that poor service to the attention of a manager. I give them an opportunity to make things right before I tell people to avoid that business like the plague!

Had I not called the store back that morning to check the availability of the ottoman, I’m sure that my friend and I would never have gone near the store again. But, something just told me to check this out and see if the sales person wasn’t doing their job.

Glad I did as the service I got over the phone was phenomenal. The woman in the front office could not have been nicer or more understanding of the situation. My friend felt the same way when she went back to pick up my ottoman.

I haven’t finished refurnishing my home, but the ottoman looks great with my chair!

The customer survey has been filled out and sent.

So what store was it you may ask? Well, I could name it but I think it is more important that both staff and customers always do their best to treat each other with respect and courtesy. After all isn’t that the way we all want to be treated?


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Help Peak Help The Food Bank!

I got a great email the other day. Please take a moment to read it:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, December 26, 2010 7:03 AM
Subject: Simply by Forwarding this email you can Help Peak Help the Food Bank

Dear Peak of the Market Recipe Subscriber:

Peak of the Market is having a Food Drive for the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank and I am writing today to ask for your help. For every new recipe e-mail subscriber, Peak of the Market Growers will donate 50 pounds of vegetables to the Food Bank. Since you have been receiving our recipe e-mails for a long time, you know firsthand we don’t send out spam or junk mail, we don’t share e-mail addresses and hopefully you are enjoying our free recipes. Therefore, your recommendation or suggestion to your friends, anywhere in the world, in your e-mail address book will mean a lot more than anything I could say. I realize everyone’s life is very busy but if you can take a few minutes and forward this e-mail with a note from you, it will help more than you know. If just 10 of your friends sign up for free recipe e-mails that will mean 500 pounds of fresh vegetables will go to Winnipeg Harvest. It’s that simple.

Imagine if all of our 47,504 recipe subscribers in 134 countries forwarded this e-mail. We can use the power of the internet to reach people around the world to help those less fortunate. Thanks for your time and your help. I greatly appreciate it and so does the Food Bank.
Larry McIntosh

Sign up for Free e-mail Recipes and Help the Food Bank

Sign up for Peak of the Market’s free e-mail recipes by February 28, 2011 and Peak of the Market Growers will donate 50 pounds of fresh vegetables to the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank. Sign up at to receive free recipes on a daily to weekly basis.

Peak of the Market has 47,504 recipe subscribers in 134 countries. Every recipe contains a vegetable, however, recipes may be for meat, fish or vegetables only. All recipe measurements are in both metric and imperial. The only information required is your e-mail address and your province, state or country. You can unsubscribe at any time and Peak of the Market does not share e-mail addresses with any third party.

Peak of the Market is a not for profit organization that represents 40 Manitoba Family Farms. Winnipeg Harvest shares food with more than 58,000 people each month through over 320 Food Banks and Soup Kitchens in Manitoba.
Thanks, take care and please don't forget to eat your veggies!

Larry McIntosh, President & CEO
Peak of the Market
1200 King Edward Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0R5

Wow! What a great promotion! Lots of free recipes and a very generous donation to a wonderful cause! 50 pounds of produce to the Food Bank for EVERY new subscriber to the service! As Mr. McIntosh explained, there is no fee here and your addresses aren't going to be sold or published. They only send you recipes and maybe 3 or 4 info/newsletter type emails per year.

As the message said, Peak Of The Market is based here in Manitoba, but has thousands of subscribers all over the world who are receiving their recipes on a regular basis. I've been subscribing for over 4 years and have come across some great recipes and ideas for preparing my produce. Of course, there are also some recipes that you couldn't pay me to try but that is part of the fun of opening the recipe email and seeing what the feature recipe is for that day!

I sent a copy of the above email to about 25 friends all over the world. I know at least one of them has signed up so far – and they live thousands of miles away!
The holiday season may be over, but there is still time to give to a worthy cause. This is certainly one of the easiest ways I’ve ever seen to make a generous donation. It is also one that everyone with an email account can afford.

So whether you barely cook, are a novice cook or love to experiment in the kitchen I hope you will consider adding your name to their mailing list so that even more produce can be donated to the food bank. Also please feel free to forward this blog post or a link to the sign up page to anyone you know who may be interested in finding some new recipes!

BTW, if you happen to come across this post after the promotion deadline of February 28, 2011 you can still sign up for great recipes. Winnipeg Harvest can always use extra help and donations. Please visit their site and see if there is a way you can help. Or check your local area for a food bank near you. They can let you know how you can help.

Thanks, dn