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Cokebaby and I went to see Doubt: A Parable at the Neptune Theatre this weekend. It was a fantastic show, well-acted, and with a really cool stage design. The play was wonderful and I’m looking forward to checking out the film when it comes out on DVD.

Now, I don’t consider myself a hoighty-toighty kind of person even if I have, in fact, been to the opera. TWICE. Three times if you include the 10 minutes Measha Brueggergosman performed at the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo one year. But that’s besides the point.

I was floored by the astounding number of people who had no clue about theatre etiquette. To be honest, I think many of these people thought they were going to see Doubt in the movie theatre rather than, you know, the theatre theatre.

For those people who are wondering, here are some clues to help figure out the difference:

  • were you handed 3D glasses at the door?
  • are the floors sticky?
  • were there movie ads playing while you wait for the lights to dim?

If you answered no to any of the above, then you’re actually in a theatre with live actors. Yes, this would explain how “real” the experience is in the absence of those 3D glasses.

So, now that we’ve established that you’re in a theatre for plays, here are some tips on etiquette:

Just because someone in the house coughs does not give you license to do the same. That goes for the next person, and the person after that, and so forth. In fact, try to stifle your cough. And if you’ve got a dry heaving cough that you haven’t been able to get rid of for days, you’re better off seeing a doctor about it than attending the play at all.

If someone does happen to cough this should not also be considered the prime opportunity to open your box of candies, bottle of pop, or packets of gum.

For that matter, you should keep your food products and resultant belching in until you’re back at home or in another suitable environment.

And bathroom breaks? In most cities you’re not permitted to leave until intermission unless you’ve got some kind of personal emergency. Once those lights dim, consider yourself in prison lock-down. Come on, it’s only an hour and a half people. Plan your bowel movements like the rest of us and use the facilities beforehand.

And for goodness sake, don’t snap your gum throughout the performance (or ever, really but in this scenario in particular) or try to take notes (!) on loose leaf paper.

No word of a lie, all of these things happened to the point of distraction. And if I was hearing it, how do you think the actors were feeling? Yes, maybe they’re trained to ignore it all. But frankly, you weren’t invited to watch your friend perform in your living room. You and I paid money to see and hear a live play, not the sounds we’re most accustomed to hearing in a dining room.

Kthxby.

Who's in charge of the graphics at Enviro Canada?

Who's in charge of the graphics at Enviro Canada?

To date, this still feels like the worst winter I’ve ever experienced in the city of Halifax. Some of you may have even noticed the Twitter hashtag #stupidwinter started up about three weeks ago. Go ahead and add to the grumbling. It might not make you feel any better but at least you’ll know that there are others out there equally as frustrated by this deep freeze and maelstrom of precipitation.

Well, apparently Mother Nature in now in cahoots with the folks at Environment Canada in her move to strike fear into our hearts. Look at this picture and tell me: does that or does that not look like periods of falling ice daggers?

I don’t even know what to say about that. Just, for the love of all that is dear to you, please don’t go outside if you see ice daggers descending from the sky.

My thoughts are with all of you during this time of the impending ice apocolypse.

Let’s be honest. Some of the boutiques in downtown Halifax (as in other cities) are intimidating. Online shops have been appealing to me lately because a) I don’t have a lot of free time and b) I want to look at my options on my own time without someone shadowing my every move.

An added benefit of shopping online is not having to deal with snobby shop girls. Having worked in clothing retail, at upscale locations like Hazelton Lanes in Toronto, I can make this statement without impunity. Granted, some of the clientèle were equally as snobby (please, don’t get me started). And really, if I’m going to be spending my money on anything, I don’t need to feel like I have to bring in my pedigree papers just to get through the front doors.

By DKNY

By DKNY

Back in December I discovered Bluefly which dubs itself “the ultimate hookup for the fashion obsessed.” Now, that’s not exactly me but I’d been searching for the perfect winter coat to replace an almost decade old one that I finally had to admit was outdated. So, here’s what I’ve got to say about the online shopping experience so far:

I caught a Boxing Day sale and was very excited to save a whopping 57% off retail value. Since it was my first order with them I found a promotional code that covered the shipping cost too. Then, recently there was a President’s Day sale at Bluefly and Cokebaby treated me to two tops and a dress as a Valentine’s gift (yes, I know, I’m a very lucky girl and he’s a very sweet boy). Both shipments arrived at my doorstep in under a week and were everything I was hoping for.

Even though we paid a fraction of the retail price, once the $30 shipping and then brokerage fees are factored in, the savings aren’t what you see at face value. At least not within Canada. You’re still getting good quality designer brands for about half the cost but I’m going to have to shop around to see if this is really the best value for my dollar. Not that I shop that much anyway but I like to feel that my dollar is going as far as it can for what I’m buying.

On a side note, an interesting tool they have on the site is an online shop assistant. If you’re ogling a piece of merchandise for too long a little pop-up box appears asking if you require assistance. For those who are intimidated by technology this is a very helpful tool. It’s also nice to know that if I ever have a question there’s help just a click away. Plus, unlike real shop girls she won’t judge me for slumming it in my regular clothes (or, more likely, my pyjamas).

Overall, I’m not totally convinced that smaller items are worth it unless you buy a number of items together. However, for big ticket pieces like my winter coat, I think for the quality it’s a bargain compared to what I might have paid otherwise.

Have you shopped for clothes online before? If so, what’s your experience been?

[Next week, as a special treat, I'll be having fashion & style week on East Coast By Choice. A few lovely bloggers have agreed to post about their views on style (or lack thereof). Check back from March 2-6 to see what East Coasters have to say about the topic.]

Last week Cokebaby and I treated ourselves to dinner and a movie up in Bayer’s Lake. While I mostly go for vegetarian fare when I’m cooking for myself or going out to restaurants there are exceptions. And, truthfully, they mostly come in burger form. This time I tried out Señor Jack’s Jalapeño Burger from Jack Astor’s with a side garden salad (who can resist the curly rings of pickled beets, huge croûtons, and blackberry dressing?). Best. Burger. Ever. There was just enough of a spicy kick, complimented with a sweet pickle relish. I was in burger heaven, oblivious to all the cows giving me stink-eye.

Official movie poster

Official movie poster

But the meal wasn’t even the best part of the night. It was the movie Slumdog Millionaire (which took home a whole bunch of Oscars last night). As the title of this post oh-so-subtly suggests, this isn’t a critique of the film in any way, shape, or form. Except, that is, to say you should probably go see this film if you haven’t already. And if you have, well, you know what I mean.

Oh, also, you have to watch this end credit sequence. And, finally, I want the yellow scarf that Latika wears with a white t-shirt and jeans. It’s the must have fashion accessory of the season IMHO.

We went into the movie not knowing very much about it besides the praise of friends (and seemingly the world). I didn’t even realize it was based on a book originally published as Q & A by Vikas Swarup (HarperCollins). Being a bookworm, it brought to mind a few good reads I’ve picked up over the course of the past few years. So, if you enjoy(ed) the movie and want to read books that are similar, check out these titles:

The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani (Doubleday)—Upon hearing that the orphanage that has cared for him since he was an infant is to be torn down by land developers, Chamdi runs away in search of his father. The sheltered world that he leaves behind is a far cry from the streets of Bombay. It’s a world of violence and destitution. But he meets two street children who take him under their wing. Together they scrape by and search for a means to escape poverty.

Shining Hero by Sara Banerji (HarperCollins)—A well-to-do adolescent girl is charmed by a Bollywood star passing through her village. Nine months later she is horrified to discover she’s giving birth to a baby that she subsequently sends down-river. The infant boy, Karna, is discovered by a woman desperate for a child of her own and who takes him in as her own. But fortunes turn quickly and soon he is forced to seek out his birth mother who has since married and had another child.

The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan (Random House)—Inspired by her own family’s history, the author creates a fictional tale of a child-bride who is soon widowed. According to the rules of her caste she must live out much of the rest of her life like a ghost: wearing white, and from dawn to dusk she is not permitted to contaminate herself with human touch, not even to comfort her small children. Her son grows up to reject the principles of caste and welcomes the ways of a modern India, eventually causing a rift between them.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Random House)—Shifting between 1969 and 1993, this is the story of fraternal twins growing up in the state of Kerala. It’s a complex book that captures a lot of interesting points about the period, such as the Communism movement, the caste system, and the Syrian Christian way of life. The author also uses Malayalam words throughout which adds to the richness of the book.

So, there you have it. A few extras to take away after you’ve seen the movie. Do you have any recommendations for books, music, or films to go with Slumdog Millionaire?

P.S. I’m also loving the movie soundtrack.

No, it’s not the sushi. And for me, that’s saying a lot. Those of you who know me in real life know that I love sushi. I could probably eat it every day and not be tired of it.

But this winter, I’ve been hooked on a menu item that most people don’t even look at when visiting the umpteen million sushi restaurants that abound in the city of Halifax. I’m talking about the meal in a bowl: udon/soba noodles.

We’ve been hit with a pretty brutal winter with wind chill factors that I’ve mostly seen further west of here. And frankly, there’s nothing better for it than to sit down to a giant bowl of hearty soup. And the varieties are plenty. Up until recently my favourite was the vegetable tempura variety.

From valvados on Flickr

From valvados on Flickr

One night I got adventurous and tried out something even better: nabeyaki udon. And I’ve been on a kick ever since. Nabeyaki udon is basically a personal size Japanese hot-pot topped with tempura shrimp, an egg, and a variety of other ingredients. Every restaurant has their own concoction. My personal favourite is from Milamodo (because I love fried tofu) but Doraku and Sushi Shige make a pretty mean bowl of it, too.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything better to warm and fill you up on a cold winter’s day. And, as an additional bonus, your friends sitting across the table from you will envy you your gastronomical prowess. That, I can almost guarantee.

[Love Twitter and sushi? Well, look out Halifax 'cause here comes Twushi. Due to the snow storm, the event was postponed from last night to next week. Check out the Halifax Tweetup page for more details on this and other Twitter related events.]

The big, wide world out there tends to think of geeks and nerds as social outcasts. We all know the stereotype: the socially awkward, overweight, acne-faced adult living in his/her mother’s basement, coming up only for sustenance that doesn’t rightfully belong on the food pyramid.

Neven Mrgan from Flickr

Photo credit: Neven Mrgan from Flickr

Well, the movers and the shakers of Halifax’s geeky underworld are on a mission to change all that by bringing the social back into social media.

It all started innocently last year with what eventually became Third Wednesdays. Now, we’ve got knitting circles, pupp-e play dates, brunch, sushi, and the list goes on.

Honestly, I’m the kind of person who usually has to plan things weeks in advance due to a busy work and social schedule. So when these things started springing up spontaneously I just couldn’t keep up. That’s where the idea of putting together a wiki came together.

Whether you’re new to the scene or not, check out the Halifax Tweetup page on Google Sites for upcoming events. Then come out from behind the glow and comfort of your computer screens to join in the fun. And, if you’d like to add to the event listings, DM your e-mail addy to me on Twitter and I’ll hook you up as a collaborator.

Coming up on the Halifax Tweetup schedule: Third Wednesday tonight, Twushi (that’s Twitter plus sushi) tomorrow night. Check the wiki for details.

Remember the scene in The Simpsons where Homer is daydreaming about the land of chocolate? Well, that was me in the south of France only it was with foie gras. Um, wait a second. That sounds kind of gross on a lot of levels. Well, even though I only had it twice in the nine days we were in France, it was equally as glorious as it was horrendous. But, like they say, when in Rome do like…Hedonismbot.

Here are some gastronomical highlights from the trip:

cwbuecheler from Flickr

Photo credit: cwbuecheler from Flickr

Picnics—By far, our favourite thing to do when travelling in Europe is checking out the fresh local produce and putting together meals to go. In Nice, we frequented the Cours Saleya Market & Monoprix, while in Avignon we enjoyed the offerings at Les Halles & 8 à Huit. Things we looked for included sundried tomatoes, olives Niçoise or en herbes de Provence, fresh baked bread, and, of course, fabulous cheeses. Whatever you do in France, if there’s an open display of cheeses that aren’t pre-packaged, for goodness sake don’t touch anything. In Paris, Cokebaby got his hand slapped for reaching out. Just remember, cheese is like a religion here. Don’t sully the alter. There are also plenty of pâtisseries and chocolatiers to go around for dessert.

Wines of the region are rosé and Côtes du Rhône which you can purchase for incredibly reasonable prices. Even champagne is dirt cheap here. For special treats we tried Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet fortified wine) and pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur usually served on ice with a pitcher of water that you can use to cut it to your liking). In Nice, we found a great wine shop called Côté Vin where the young shopkeep was keen to speak English and gave us some great recommendations for local (and organic) wines of the region without an ounce of pretension.

Le Atmosphere (Nice)—On opera night, we tried finding a recommended restaurant called Chez Palmyre. Finding no signs of life there on that night (or any other) we wound up on the very touristy Cours Saleya Strip where we were reeled in by an employee. Yes, yes, tourist trap antics. But we were running late and it was literally a two minute walk from the opera house. We went with the formule which got us a starter, main, and dessert for 13,50€. Each of us had a fish soup (served with croutons and rouille), grilled sword fish with roasted vegetables in rice. For dessert I had a creme caramel while Cokebaby opted for chocolate mousse. For the price, service, and quality of food we weren’t disappointed.

Maison Nani (Avignon)—We kind of hit the jackpot with this little gem of a restaurant. The atmosphere is warm and homey, the service impeccable, and the food was everything we wanted it to be (and then some).  On our first day, we arrived close to the end of lunch service so we missed out on the specials but after our meal we vowed to come back early to check them out. Both days the place was filled with locals and the owners were around greeting everyone personally. Our meals ranged around 8-12€ and you could purchase a 75cL Cotes du Rhone wine for about 4€. The wine came in unmarked bottles that brought the term house wine to new meaning but who can argue for the value? I indulged in a foie gras salad served with toast. Simple but delicious. For dessert I couldn’t resist the café gourmand: a cup of espresso with a sampling of Chantilly cream, a cake that tasted like homemade Ferrero Rocher, crème anglaise, and a raspberry crumble for under 4€. On the next visit, I was very happy to get the special tart of the day made with broccoli, onions and olives, with a side salad, and vegetables (potato salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard fennel, lightly salted and boiled string beans).

jenny downing from Flickr

Photo credit: jenny downing from Flickr

O’Neill’s (Avignon)—At supper time many of the restaurants along the main strip were closed, we assumed, due to it being low season. Back alleys turned up international cuisine for very reasonable prices. It probably would have made some sense to have Chinese food for the lunar new year but, frankly, we didn’t come to France for the Chinese food. So, we stopped in at O’Neill’s Irish pub. Um, yeah, that didn’t make much sense, right? The thing is they had a bunch of French items on the menu. While Cokebaby enjoyed his pizza Alsace (ham, olives, mushrooms and Emmenthal) and pint of Kronenbourg blanc, I was happy to receive the yummiest (and biggest) salade Niçoise with a goblet full of vin chaud (aka Glögg or mulled wine).

Le Courtois Café/Pâtisseries (Nîmes)—A family-run business since 1892, this gorgeous spot is situated in the same courtyard as a palm-tree and crocodile fountain (the city’s emblem). The dining room had crammed seating but elegant Old World decor. Cokebaby and I felt like the veritable bulls in a china shop and if the weather had been a bit warmer we probably would have enjoyed the experience more on the patio. That said, the food was delicious and the service both pleasant and efficient. This was my second and last foie gras salad. Not quite as delicious as the first but it came with a tasty side of scalloped potatoes. Cokebaby’s poulet Basquaise (chicken served in a clay pot with peppers and smoky spices) was not the most memorable meal but he enjoyed it nonetheless. On the way out we passed the display case of pastries and, although incredibly tempting (and probably where they excelled in terms of food), we passed them up in order to move on to the sites of the city.

Restaurant du Gesù (Nice)—This was a quaint little Italian restaurant situated at a cobblestone square across from a church. We opted to dine outside in the enclosed patio next to a heat lamp. The food here was simplicity at its best. We shared plates of gnocchi (potato pasta) with Gorgonzola, and ravioli with pistou (basically, pesto without the pine nuts). On the blackboard they had featured a wine of the month which we tried out for 14€ (this time it came in a corked and labelled bottle). By the time we were served our meal the place was packed with locals and students.

********

Our last day in Nice was spent trying to cram in as much food and drink into our faces before we had to fly back. We had croissants, café crème, wine, cheese, beer, pastries, and more. By the end of the night I was wholly and truly satisfied that I could indulge no more. Thankfully, vacations do have to come to an end sometimes. Otherwise, I’d be the size of an elephant. That or I’d have to take up smoking as an appetite suppressant which I’m convinced is the only way everyone stays so thin in France. Kidding..!

In France, dog culture is part of everyday life. You see them in cafés, dressed up, carried in handbags, sitting in restaurants and pretty much everywhere. In fact, the hotels we were staying at both offered dog-friendly accommodations that included dog beds.

If I didn’t think Air Canada was more than capable of killing my dog (legally liable or not), I might have been half-tempted to bring him along. But on the flight back, I was relieved I did not fully entertain this thought. There was a crazy dog lady whose loud but limited conversation with the staff behind the counter (“I can see dog now?” said repeatedly à la Latka Gravas) that left me little hope and much irritation.

Her dog never made it to the plane.

“Tenk you veddy much.”

In Nice, we were surprised to see how many dogs just roamed the streets free like cats. What this means for pedestrians is that dog poo is left pretty much unchecked. As a tourist this leaves the dilemma of trying to take in the constant marvel of one’s surroundings while watching very carefully where you’re putting your feet.

And let me tell you that a day you will rue is when you step in doggy poo.

A view from the palace wall

A view from the palace wall

Cokebaby and I managed to evade several piles during our first few days. It was on our day trip to Monaco where my misstep took place. And it happened as soon as I stepped foot off the bus. Welcome to the world’s most densely populated sovereign country. *splat*

Thankfully, there were enough puddles and curbs to rid myself of any prolonged afternotes.

Now our little excursion (a 30-minute and 1€ bus trip) was not for the casino or even the palace. Our plan was really just to explore the principality, check out the old city, and take in the exotic gardens.

It was our goal on this trip to just take it easy, see some key things, but not overexert ourselves to the point of site-seeing exhaustion. So, after checking out the beautiful marina with all the luxury private yachts, we had a bite to eat at a waterfront paninerie (yes, it’s a restaurant that specializes in paninis). That’s where we had our first taste of pastis (a delicious an anise-flavored apéritif).

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

While having lunch, I took a peek at the Rick Steves’ Provence & the French Riviera guidebook that we brought with us. That’s when I discovered the most wonderful little overshadowed treasure. The Cousteau Aquarium (aka Oceanographic Museum of Monaco).

Having fond childhood memories of watching the various Jacques Cousteau TV series, I attribute part of my love of wildlife to him. Also, The Life Aquatic is among one of my favourite movies. So, off we went to check out the aquarium.

It did not disappoint. The building itself is magnificent, with carvings all across the front of aquatic life. Inside was a wonderful trove of all sorts of creatures, a lecture hall, whale exhibit, and a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of the city.

We even found a red hat to bring back with us as a souvenir! No undersea adventure is complete without that hat. Day = made.

Coming up this week: our excursions to Avignon and Nimes. Inlcuding, how we survived a random transit strike. Vive La Republique! Next week, I’ll wrap up with a tour of French cuisine and our gluttonous last day in the south of France.

I’m not by any means a culture vulture. At least by some standards. Sure, I like watching some indie or foreign films, am passionate about world food and wines, listen to a wide variety of music, and am fairly well travelled. That all being said, when it comes to things like ballet or opera performances my experience is pretty limited. By that I mean mostly through secondary school field trips. (For the record that’s a long time ago).

It’s not that I don’t enjoy these types of cultural experiences. It’s mostly because a good deal of my adult (and therefore able to afford things) life has been spent in a small city. Frankly, since moving here it seems to me that the options are fairly limited and I’m not about to repeat the brutally uncomfortable experience at the Halifax Metro Centre when we went to see the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo with Cokebaby’s family and accidentally heard some beautiful opera performed by Measha Brueggergosman.

In fact, outside of that experience, one of the few others I’ve had with opera is through a very small collection at home that includes safe bets like Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. However, on our trip to Italy last year we made it to The Barber of Seville at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and were so amazed that we wanted to repeat the experience. It was an opulent opera house and overall wonderful performance which I enjoyed immensely despite undergoing the early stages of a sinus infection that would make the flight home almost unbearable.

At the market

At the Cours Saleya Market

This is all to say that we had some high expectations of the Opera de Nice on our recent trip to southern France. So, on our first day on vacation we took in a day of walking around Old Nice, stopping by the opera house to find out that all the main tickets were sold out and that we’d have to come back at 16:30 (not 6:30 as I almost made the mistake) to purchase last minute tickets in the upper tier. It was to be expected so instead of being disappointed we spent the rest of the morning touring through the market stands where we picked up some souvenirs and the best sun-dried tomatoes ever made.

Eventually we made it back to the opera house where I’m pretty sure I asked the ticket agent in French if he wanted two seats at the opera. To his credit he didn’t laugh at me and continued to converse in French without switching to English. As the assigned seating was sold out he lamented that the only tickets available presented poor to no visibility. But they were also only 8€ each.

From where we were seated we could see only part of the stage and that was only when standing. Although there was an overhead with captions to follow, that too was half obscured. It seemed that I understand all but every fifth word but it also seemed that every fifth word was the most important.

The opera itself was one that we’d not heard of: Les Contes d’Hoffman. Not Le Comte Hoffman as we originally thought while listening to the performance. A somewhat important distinction. You see, one of the main characters sounded like he was the Count from Sesame Street and every time he entered the stage with that distinctive laugh I thought we were about to get a lesson in French numbers (which actually would have at least been educational in some way). The unmistakable laugh only further confused my understanding of what was going on because I naturally assumed he was “Count” Hoffman when, in fact, he was actually the “nemesis” Lindorf.

From the set of Les Contes d'Hoffman

From the set of Les Contes d'Hoffman

Then, at some point—no word of a lie—a giant baby’s head emerged on the stage. For a little while it was all we could look at. We were transfixed and beyond perplexed and losing the plot line with every passing second that we weren’t paying close attention to the words or overhead.

That’s when it got really weird. A bald-headed robotic woman sprang out of the head. All bets were off at that point. It felt like we were watching a live-action episode of The Simpsons. I imagined Lenny and Carl standing by the enormous tête asking, “Ain’t you never seen a bald chick leap out of a giant head before?”

Even after the automaton proceeded to sing the very beautiful aria, Les Oiseaux Dans La Charmille, we couldn’t put the oddness out of our minds. Yet we persevered.

Then, the stage was flooded with identical blind couples tapping their way with white canes across the stage. By the time Act II came along Cokebaby and I were entirely lost.

Apparently there was an Act III but we never saw it.

For us, the opera didn’t end when the fact lady sang. In fact, there was no fat lady at all. And maybe in the absence of one, it ends when the bald chick leaps out of the giant head. I’ll have to test that theory out on our next operatic excursion.

What do Amy Winehouse, a gremlin, and dog poop have in common?

Hey, that’s not nice…

What I’m talking relates to things that happened on my vacation in the south of France. However, I’m still recovering from jet-lag and an inbox full of messages that may require my attention. So, you’ll have to wait to find out about the details. But believe me, I’ve got plenty of details to share.

In the meantime, if you didn’t catch these great East Coast guest posts last week, check them out:

The great battles of snow shoveling in Nova Scotia, by Giles Crouch

Livin’ on the East Coast: finally home, by La Belle Ecrivaine

Choosing Wolfville, by Chris Campbell

ECFL, by Craig Moore

The Right Coast, by Maria McGowan

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