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Totally Chocolate

Island Chocolates Company hosts fall festival in Victoria

by Peggy Miles

Emma and Linda Gilbert at the Island Chocolate Factory in VictoriaForget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate.” That’s the adage written on a little container I have in my home office, and quite succinctly expresses my adoration for the decadent substance. Linda Gilbert shares this passion for confectionery and operates the Island Chocolates Company in Victoria by-the-Sea.

Gilbert’s self proclaimed philosophy is that there is “better living through chocolate.” She invites people to experience “the power of pleasure.” The proprietor incorporates chocolate into her daily routine, often beginning the day with a chocolatiers breakfast, and capping off an evening with a brandy- or mint-filled morsel.

Originally from British Columbia, Linda and husband Ron started the business 23 years ago. With Ron’s passing almost four years ago, Linda’s grown children Emma and Eric have become an integral part of the family business.

On September 19, the Gilberts will host the 4th Annual Chocolate Festival in Victoria. The family first hosted the event in 2007 to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. The festival provides the Gilberts with the opportunity to showcase their business while giving back to the village.

The day-long event gets underway with a pancake breakfast (complete with chocolate sauce of course), hosted by the local firemen’s club.

No doubt children will clamber to have their faces painted, since regular face paint will be cast aside in favour of white and brown chocolate! Festivities also include a chess tournament where young participants will be required to wear white gloves as they move the chocolate chess pieces across the game board.

Dr. Drinkwater (the chocolate therapist) will provide readings advising folks about which type of chocolate best suits their personality. Also, a massage therapist will be on hand to provide cocoa butter relief to tense muscles.

And then there’s the Best Brownie Contest. If you aren’t cut out for baking, don’t sit on the sidelines—anyone can participate as a judge!

The festival will feature workshops sharing information about the origin of chocolate, comparisons of the various qualities of chocolates and more. Eric Gilbert will share details of his four year experience involved at a chocolate co-op in Ecuador.

Island Chocolates is a new member of the Economusee Network, and the Network’s mission is in part to “conserve, develop and present traditional trades in a distinctive manner.” As part of this affiliation, the Gilberts will be unveiling a half dozen interpretive panels that will share information about the process of chocolate making, Eric’s Ecuadorian experience, facts about the historic building that houses the business, and pictures of the Gilbert’s collection of chocolate moulds. The new panels will be unveiled the week before the Festival.

What does Linda Gilbert want people to take away from their festival experience? She wants them to develop an appreciation for chocolate, and to discover chocolate’s true expression—“it’s whimsical, it’s fun, it’s tasty!” Popping a sweet confectionary into my mouth, closing my eyes and savouring the taste for just a moment, I can’t help but agree.

www.islandchocolates.ca
www.redsandsshore.com

Sweet Potatoes

The New, New Potato Time Review

by Peggy Miles

As I drove the rolling landscape from Summerside to Victoria-by-the-Sea earlier this summer, I witnessed a beautiful rainbow over the horizon—the most gorgeous I have ever seen. I took note of a field of bright yellow flax and marveled how everything looked so green from the rain that had just fallen. I thought, “I am so lucky to be a part of this Island.”

This seemed to be the theme of the evening, as I drove into Victoria and met a friend at Island Chocolates, which if you’ve never been is best explained as a chocolate factory and café (there is no greater combination). Over tea and decadent desserts, we chatted about the summer and gave greetings and waves to people we knew.

 After dessert, we walked the short distance to the Victoria Playhouse to take in The New, New Potato-Time Review, staring comedian Patrick Ledwell and poet and songwriter Tanya Davis. Both performers are Island born and raised, and this show was about, well, “Islandness.”

I can’t imagine a better venue for such a sweet, tender and witty little show. With its 150 seats, the Playhouse provides a charming and cozy setting for its stage productions.

The New, New Potato-Time Review opened with an image of a self-serve potato stand projected onto a large screen on stage. Ledwell and Davis walked on and welcomed the audience, followed by a song from Davis simply entitled “Potatoes.”

Davis is soft spoken, small in stature with short hair, giving her a sprite-like quality, and she completely endeared the audience. Her lyrics are very thoughtful, and it’s easy to get blissfully lost in the imagery that she creates through her music.

Ledwell played the role of lecture hall professor, educating the audience on the ironies of life on the Island. Ledwell lightly mocked the outside world’s view of Prince Edward Island, as well as the idiosyncrasies of Islanders.

I was amused by Ledwell’s “here and away” presentation and his statement to “not use a global map for navigation,” since you rarely find PEI on it. I also chuckled in recognition in regard to the practice of Islanders claiming well-known personalities as their own (Olympic curler Cheryl Bernard—she’s one of us!).

Photos and visual images were used as an on stage backdrop throughout the evening. I especially enjoy the images from Island photographer Anna Karpinski and their incorporation into the performance.

The deep connection this duo has to the Island presented itself through humour, silliness and warm, thoughtful moments. Ledwell and Davis appeared as a cohesive unit, and their mutual respect for one another was evident.

Their awkward bow at the end of the performance confirmed that there was no pretentiousness present. So very Islanderish, don’t you think?

Laughter and Cheer

Review  Chuck & Albert

by Peggy Miles

Whether it’s energy or energie, Chuck & Albert have it. Whatever energy elixir Chuck & Albert are tapping, I want some. And if the dynamic duo ever decided to bottle it, they would never be able to keep up with demand.

If you’re an Islander, you’re probably familiar with these Acadian performers who serve up music, dance and comedy to enthusiastic audiences on a regular basis. And if you’re from away, attending a Chuck & Albert show is sure to be unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed before.

Chuck & Albert are performing this summer at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside. If you go, you’ll forget you’ve purchased tickets in order to attend, and instead feel like you’ve been sent a personal invitation by your quirky Acadian buddies Chuck & Albert, to join the rest of their neighbours and friends for a social evening of laughter and cheer.

They have a visual uniqueness and a multitude of highly animated facial expressions. Their bodies that bend with ease to the music and the intensity level is evident as sweat drips down their faces. The show never drags and feels like a continuous ferris wheel of entertainment.

The duo has a commanding presence on stage, but interacts with the audience in such a way that everyone feels right at home. In fact, it’s the audience participation that makes a Chuck & Albert performance really special.

I enjoyed the ‘C’est What’ part of the show, where the duo sets a comment box in the lobby during intermission and the audience is invited to submit questions, which are answered in the second half of the show. Whether the query is ‘Why are there skunks on PEI?’ or ‘Can you sing any songs in English?’, the guys find a witty way to answer and get a laugh from the crowd.

And what could have been a routine part of the show in which the audience is asked where they hail from, was instead made into an amusing display of down home humour.

The flexibility of these guys is incredible. At one point Albert jumped on top of Chuck’s shoulders, and the two proceeded to weave their way through the audience, providing a step dancing and fiddling demonstration all at the same time.

Their repertoire of instruments includes guitar, fiddle, the spoons, harmonica, saw, and various household items which were used as percussion instruments.

Although all of their songs are performed in French, they are introduced in both official languages. This also applies to story-telling and interactions with the audience. This is done in such a smooth transitional way, that whatever language an audience member speaks, they will easily understand and appreciate the show’s content.

There is a sense of anticipation throughout the entire performance. The duo is skilled at what they do, well-rehearsed and rarely misses a beat. Catch upcoming performances from Chuck & Albert on July 28 and August 4 and 18.

Hatcher Takes Helm

New executive director of the College of Piping

by Peggy Miles

Karen HatcherWhen Karen Hatcher moved to Summerside during high school, she held a monopoly on all the bagpiping gigs. It was the early 80s and at the time, she was the only active piper around town and in demand at banquets and community functions. She spent two summers piping at the local visitor information centre and held the honour of being the piper during Charles and Dianna’s visit to Summerside.

Jumping ahead about 25 years, Hatcher has made her way back to Summerside to lead a different kind of processional, this time as Executive Director of the College of Piping.

A minister’s daughter, Hatcher and her family moved around growing up, and she has memories of living in Bathurst, Halifax, and Sydney before moving to Summerside. In the years after, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism & Hospitality Management from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax (graduating from the program’s very first class) and held a number of managerial jobs in the hospitality industry.

All of which has led her back to Summerside, to the place her family had the closest connection to, and is “familiar and comforting.”

“My professional life and my hobby have coincided. Everything happens for a reason and it’s all about timing,” states Hatcher, who has an air of optimism.

The College has had its struggles over the last couple of years. Hatcher is not oblivious to this. But it’s easy to see that while she recognizes the past, she is very much focused on the future.

For her, communication is key. She wants the community to know that “we’re here, we’re alive.” Her focus is to “stabilize and grow.”

Stability has been added by a change in the operational structure of the College. There will be a more concerted effort to separate the College’s business component from its education mandate. While Hatcher will administer the overall operations of the College, a Director of Education (James MacHattie) will oversee the disciplines of piping, dance and drumming.

And while she’s busy with the upcoming summer season (Highland Storm returns, along with a new Monday night show called Ceilidh at the College) she is also looking at long term goals. Hatcher is committed to growing College programs, facilities and productions, and reveals that the Highland Games will return in 2011.

She describes her leadership style as “fair and consistent” with an open door. Hatcher indicates her experience at the College thus far has been “very positive.”

I ask about the things that inspire her. She communicates that she is motivated by a “life’s too short to be negative” philosophy. Hatcher also shares her excitement for returning to her familiar place of Summerside. And for her, the enthusiasm of a young performer executing their first highland fling is contagious.

Look What I Made

Rediscovering creativity at Right Off The Batt Pottery

by Peggy Miles

Darryl Lentz demonstrates at pottery workshop (photo: Peggy Miles)“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”—Pablo Picasso.

That quotationwould describe my recent situation as I stared at the slab of clay in front of me. I was at a workshop hosted by Right off the Batt Pottery. Owners Cindy and Darryl Lentz have recently expanded their studio space at the Kinkora Business Centre, which allows them to offer an enhanced experience for workshop participants.

As the workshop begins, Darryl shares the history of the two year old business. The process of glazing and kilning is described. Darryl gives details on shaping pieces using the various templates on hand, and we are shown techniques for adding texture. Tools and equipment are explained, and then we are left to create.

This leaves me standing in front of my flat piece of clay, drawing a blank. I had arrived at the studio with my head full of clutter about deadlines, paperwork and errands.

But when provided with all of the resources in which to create, one has no other choice but to begin. I searched the shelves, finally picking out a heart shaped plastic template. I followed Darryl’s earlier instructions, putting the template face down onto the clay and cutting around it. I began to shape the clay, enhancing the curves and eliminating rough edges. I could feel my brow furrow in concentration, and wayward thoughts quickly vanished.

Next, it was time to add texture. I picked through bins of bobbles, finding an antique key. I pressed it into the centre of my clay creation, took the key away, and admired the impression it left. Voila! My masterpiece was complete.

As I looked around the studio, I observed participants creating plates, mugs, trays, vases, and even saki bowls. There were more furrowed brows, and also chit chat and laughter.

I am asked to write my name on the bottom of my creation, and confirmed that I would like the piece glazed in red (yes, a red heart shaped plate with a key in the centre…call me sappy, ok?). From there, the staff take care of the rest, readying the piece for placement in the firing kiln. They give you a call 2–3 weeks later when the piece is ready for pick up (or shipped to off-Island workshop participants).

It’s interesting to learn that the pottery studio has the capacity to host up to three workshops a day, and have hosted birthday parties, “girls’ night out” gatherings, and team building exercises for nurses, teachers and students. Participants range from age 4 and up.

The Lentz’s feel they are “leading the pack” in experiential tourism on PEI and have had a high volume of out-of-province visitors also taking advantage of the workshop program. These participants create pieces that become part of their family’s history, and keepsakes of their time spent on the Island.

As for me, I’m looking forward to returning soon to let my inner child play in clay.

www.rightoffthebatt.com

Lefurgey Concerts

Mike Dixon invites musical guests to perform in Summerside

by Peggy Miles

Musical guest Norm Bowser with host and accompanist Mike DixonDarn it, what have I been doing all winter?” was the question I asked myself after a recent event at the Lefurgey Cultural Centre in Summerside. Wyatt Heritage Properties has been hosting a monthly concert series since the fall, and I just got around to taking it in. The series allows collaboration between local performers and offers a new small performance venue for the community.

An 1867 shipbuilder’s home, Lefurgey Cultural Centre provides a cozy setting in which to enjoy the entertainment…a small bar is set up in the parlour for pre-show beverages, and concerts take place in the drawing room, with its muted lighting and buttery coloured walls. There are rows of chairs accommodating 60-70 people, and the performers are literally a “heads up—catch my guitar pick” away from the audience. Mics and monitors are not necessary.

The monthly concerts feature Summerside singer-songwriter Mike Dixon as host. I remember Mike as the heavy-metal revering kid I went to school with, who was full of charisma, and friends with everyone. Mike’s musical style has evolved to include bluegrass, folk, and blues, but he still knows how to capture the attention of a room, which makes him the perfect anchor to manage the tempo of the show and carry the evening.

Each month Dixon invites a different musical guest—one that has a Summerside connection. Past company includes Catherine MacLellan, Nathan Wiley, Nikkie Gallant and others.

The night I headed down to Lefurgey, Dixon was joined by singer, songwriter and musician Norm Bowser. The duo shared original music as well as old time bluegrass and folk songs. Switching between guitar, banjo and mandolin, their musical skills were evident, and amusing was the friendly chatter the two shared between numbers. The audience listened intently as Dixon and Bowser contributed thoughtful musings about the history of original works, and the characters in each song.

Speaking with Dixon after the show, he expressed his enthusiasm for the concert series and the importance of providing opportunities for local musicians to express their creativity, something he feels has been lacking in Summerside.

Event organizers at Wyatt Heritage Properties echo those thoughts. “We want (the public) to simply enjoy and soak up the cultural flavor available to them,” says Lori Ellis, Manager of Cultural and Heritage Properties for the City of Summerside.

The last show for the season takes place in June. Organizers anticipate the program will return in the fall.

www.wyattheritage.com

Elderly Expression

LEAP program brings art and crafts to manors in Summerside

by Peggy Miles

Artist Lynn Gaudet of “Where Pigs Fly,” with Wedgewood resident Anna Banks. (photo: Peggy Miles)Anna Banks is no stranger to a painting pallet, and was an avid artist throughout the course of her life. Now the distinguished elderly woman is a new resident of Wedgewood Manor in Summerside, and as with any transition in life, adjustments are not always easy.

Luckily, this past winter, Wedgewood and Somerset Manors in Summerside were able to host art therapy sessions for their residents through the L.E.A.P. Program (Learning Elders Arts Program). L.E.A.P. connects members of the Island’s older population with local artists. The goal: to enhance the lives of seniors through the arts.

In March I stopped into the open house hosted at Wedgewood Manor, where residents and family members were celebrating their finished projects – works of art, painted directly onto cloth tote bags. Although the L.E.A.P. projects at the Summerside manors were short term, it was evident that they had been effective.

Island artist Lynn Gaudet had been meeting with Wedgewood residents once a week since the beginning of the new year. Art classes were adapted to residence’s abilities. So while some residents had no trouble holding a paint brush, those with less hand mobility would use plastic wrap to move paint around the canvas (canvas bag in this case) to create colourful images.

Gaudet explained that the program not only supplied creative relief, but also provided seniors with choices—something that isn’t always in abundance as this sector of the population gets older. Residents were able to decide on the subject of their painting, adding features and colours of their choosing.

Local potter and sculptor Candy Gallant worked with residents at Somerset Manor in their creation of clay pottery pieces. She recalls one resident who passed away during the project, and her family was touched to receive her artwork as a lasting souvenir.

The weekly art classes gave residents something to look forward to each week, says Frances Holt-Gallant, the activity manager at Wedgewood Manor. “It gives them another choice…a chance to use their creativity when they otherwise may not have used it.” Many seniors created out of need over the course of their lives—knitting mittens, for example. Holt-Gallant expresses that the program was able to offer residents opportunities to create for personal satisfaction and pleasure.

“It’s the best she’s felt in a long time” Diane Vessey says about her mother Anna Banks. Although her mother has dementia, the program has allowed Banks to reconnect with her passion for painting.

Seniors weren’t the only ones affected by the program. It also provided local artists with a new venue in which to share their artistic expression. After watching artists Gallant and Gaudet tenderly interact with residents, it’s clear that they too will remember the L.E.A.P program as a unique experience. “I don’t want to say goodbye,” says Gaudet. “Me neither,” nods Gallant.

The L.E.A.P. Program is funded by the PEI Department of Tourism & Culture and is administered by the PEI Senior Citizen’s Federation.

St. Patrick’s in Summerside

City entertainment venues celebrate the Irish traditions

by Peggy Miles

A few years back I was visiting St. John’s, Newfoundland. It was the beginning of March and more than once I was asked by excited Newfoundlanders if I was going to be in town for St. Patrick’s Day. After replying that unfortunately I was not, each time I received a sympathetic look that really said “we feel sorry for you.”

St. Paddy’s day was still a couple of weeks away, but it seemed like virtually every bar on George Street had green streamers and paper shamrocks hanging from the ceiling and they were more than ready to welcome the big event.

I was inspired by these inhabitants who, in the bleakness of winter, rallied around a holiday initiated in a completely different country than their own, involving an obscure legend about a saint and his triumphant ability to scare away snakes.

But I think those jubilant Newfies had the right idea. In the middle of March, at a time when we’re all feeling the winter blahs, why not get our friends together, put on a goofy plastic green leprechaun hat, go out and contribute to our local economy? Gosh darned it, let’s drink some Guinness and—in our best Irish accent—see if we can identify every single one of those frosted lucky charms.

Since I’m from Summerside, I am challenging my fellow residents to be PEI’s leaders in celebrating St. Paddy’s Day 2010. Get your blarney butt in gear and take advantage of the following Summerside venues that are getting in the spirit of the Emerald Isle.

For an early start on the celebrations, attend the second annual “Wearing of the Green: event at the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club on March 13. The event takes place from 3–6 pm and will include music by Dave Doyle, plus prizes and giveaways. And if you wear green, you’ll gain free admission to the event. They’ll also be serving a “hearty Irish Stew” and (I quote) “lots and lots of Guinness.”

And come the big day on March 17, a number of local establishments will be “going green” by offering a variety of food and drink specials tying in with the St. Patrick’s Day theme.

The Brothers Two has been faithful in hosting annual St. Paddy’s Day festivities, this year offering patrons live entertainment, green beer and special menu items. I love the after dinner treats at B2, and I have been told that there just might be a special Bailey’s Irish Crème dessert item on the menu that night. Pair that with one of their tasty Irish coffee drinks, and leaping leprechauns!

The Loyalist’s Crown & Anchor Tavern and Credit Union Place’s Fiveeleven West Restaurant will both have special drink and menu items as well. And if you’re not sure if your regular haunt is hosting festivities, call ahead and check it out.

Éirinn go Brách!

Events Calendar

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