Bob & Lorie Gray
Bobsongs Creative Media

What’s In Store…

Selling Versus Stealing A Soul…

When we were recently down at the Bellevue Festival of the Arts, I was, as always, struck by the talent and artistry of the participants.

But, this time, for the first time, I was aware of the number of booths where they had large, glaring “NO PHOTOS !!!” signs.

I can understand if someone has a painting, or a photograph, that they may not want someone to be able to go to the local photo lab, and create a copy of their image… but I saw these signs also in booths with Furniture, Ceramics, Jewellery, Hats and other goods.

On the OTHER hand, I came across Greg Delaney.

His whimsical brooches, sculptures and whatnots were fun, enchanting and frivolously captivating.

He puts his stuff online, writes a Blog, and allowed me to take his picture, while he was working on his product:

(The quality of the photograph, is a result of my Blackberry, and not a reflection of his work !!!)

He appeared to be secure in the knowledge that anyone taking a photo would not “steal his soul”, even though he seems to inject a little bit of himself, into every piece he makes !

You can click to read his Blog, The Daily Delaney, here.

You can also see some of his wares on another website he has…

It struck me as a massive insecurity on behalf of the OTHER artisans, that anyone taking a picture, could draw up the resources, bypass the development process and produce a product comparable to theirs.

I looked at the whimsy and fun he injects into his pieces, and while someone may try to imitate him, he alone can create the pieces you find on his site.


Similarly, My Sister-In-Law Shelley, has made up a number of pieces of jewelery, and posted them on the web.

Part of their charm… (IMHO) …is the stories she creates for each item:


In today’s marketplace, I believe that the true artists have to embrace the opportunities that the Internet and Social Media afford them… to reach a larger market, and not be afraid that someone… somewhere… might be able to make a copy of their idea.

Kudos to Greg and Shelley for having fun, and fearlessly putting their stuff “out there” !!!



You Got Mail…

Every year, on the same weekend, we journey South on a trip to Bellevue, WA, to go to the Bellevue Artsfair.

So we have just returned from our annual pilgrimage to all things artsy and crafty.

The range of artisans is astounding, and shall, in a few days, be the subject of another post.

But, in the meantime, I have been taunting folks on Twitter and on Facebook with what may (IMHO) be our greatest find ever.

On the same weekend, in the same “neck of the woods,” there is a store at the CrossRoads Shopping Mall in Bellevue.

On the outside of the Mall is the Common Folk Store.

They are a store that defies description and convention…

It is a retail store, that has some of the sensibility of a pawn shop for special “remember this” items.  It also has new and re-purposed items.

Think of a Restoration Hardware store, only with WAAAY different items !!!

And EVERY year, on the same weekend, the owners clean out their barn/warehouse/home.

And so it was, on a sunny Saturday morning, we found ourselves looking at this beautiful piece of old world technology.

From the back, it doesn’t look like much…You've got mail - Back view

From the front, at first, it looks rather plain…

You've got mail - front view

And then when you look closer…

You've got mail - up close

You can start to appreciate why this gorgeous piece will soon take a place in our home.

You've Got Mail - Front

But, first it needs some cleaning, and a case built around its current rather “rough hewn” exterior.

But, once it has a base, sides, a top, and the dead wood bugs have been removed, we are going to have a place for our friends and visitors to stop and talk about.

I’m looking forward to posting the finished images in a month or so, once I get the project done.

In the meantime…  ????

Garage Sale, Saturday !!!

One of my nieces, Hayley Woodin, is a BC Ambassador.

Hayley Woodin - BC Ambassador 2010 - BobBlahBlah.comHayley is a former Miss White Rock, who continued on, and became one of three BC Ambassadors for 2010.

Neither one of these programs is a beauty pageant… the criteria for both contests, judges the applicants on knowledge of the region, a personal interview with the panel, public speaking, presentation ability, and a talent portion.

There is also an expectation that while they are holding the Title, they will travel throughout the Province, promoting the mandate of Education, Motivation and Self-Esteem.

They have also, for the past two years, been working towards helping Craig Keelburger’s Group: FREE THE CHILDREN to build a school in Kenya.  The Free The Children group has now morphed into WE… who run WE DAY.

With that goal in mind, the BC Ambassador program has held cookie sales, selling bird houses, a few garage sales and other fundraisers, to raise thousands of dollars necessary to make this dream a reality.

There is another Garage Sale, this Saturday, June 19th, and all proceeds from it goes to Free The Children to help build the school.

It is being held at 11845 Springdale Drive, in Pitt Meadows, and will run on Saturday from 8:30 to 2:00. (No early birds, please)

Here is a link to Google Maps, showing the location. (Just in case you aren’t familiar with the Ridge Meadows area)

C’mon out !  It’ll be a hoot, a holler and a half !!!



Kateslem After School Program…

Last night, my wife and I were invited to a Birthday Party/Fundraiser, at the John B Pub in Coquitlam.

It was an opportunity to get a group of friends together, and make the husband of one of the volunteers REALLY uncomfortable, while supporting a program that his wife helps out with!

Win Win!!!

It was great seeing our friends again, and catching up…  on what was new with the old crowd.

As always at these types of events, the volunteers were busy selling raffle tickets, 50/50 tickets and chances on a sheet full of Lottery Tickets.  They’d sold tickets through the Pub, for a burger and beer combo.

I think we’ve all been involved in these types of fund-raisers, and we’ve probably all chipped in to help friends/family or groups we support, raise money.

Just before they had the prize draws, they called for quiet, to make some introductions.

Sitting in a corner, I was at first not paying much attention, as these were all folks I was sure I didn’t know.

As they continued, my ears perked up.

There was a Federal Senator…  A Mayor…  Several City Councillors…  Others, whose names I recognize as being important community builders.

And I had heard NOTHING about this program.

So, plagiarizing massively from their brochure, let me tell you what I NOW know about the Kateslem After School Program.

Kateslem After School Program provides vulnerable youth with a positive, consistent, supportive and safe after school environment.

Kateslem aims to empower youth through experiences and skill development.

The individual’s abilities and needs, in relation to their family, peers, school and community, are valued and respected.

They help the kids with homework.  They also help with literacy, life, health, nutrition and hygiene skills.  Promote Community Service and leadership.  Provide recreational activities.  Build friendships, and provide lessons in conflict resolution.

But what does it ALL MEAN ?!?

The word Kateslem is a First Nations word meaning “coming together”.

Kateslem currently operates After School Programs in Coquitlam, at Banting Middle School and Como Lake Middle School. The Programs run concurrent with the school year, from September to June.

Kids between the ages of 11 and 14, from Banting Middle School or Como Lake Middle School in Coquitlam, are eligible.

There is no registration fee for the youths, although they are required to bring one item of non-perishable  food per month, to help those in need in the community.  The students can be referred by a teacher, parent, or counselor.  Or the students can sign themselves up.

From everything I read, and the people I met… this is a great program, and one that other communities should probably get on board with!

The group itself is currently supported by teachers, school administrators, parents, community workers, and civic leaders.  They are working together to see Kateslem through the next step of its progress… becoming a Registered Charity… so that sustained growth and progress can continue.

If you would like more information, would like to help, or know of a Youth At Risk who could benefit from the Kateslem Program, please contact Ms. Karyn Bell, Coordinator.  Her e-mail address is or you can call her at 604-250-9332… or you can follow them on Twitter !!!

Big Feast Bistro in Maple Ridge…

A few days ago, I was driving through Maple Ridge, and on the North-East corner of 227th & 119th, I saw Big Feast Bistro & Catering, which had tweeted about their Grand Opening a week or so earlier.  As it was lunchtime, I felt compelled to go and do some “research” !!!

Big Feast Bistro & Catering

Located right on the corner, it has lots of windows, and a bright, airy venue inside.  There are eight or nine tables of varying sizes inside, and a couple of bistro tables outside for nicer days.  There was a generous amount of space between all the tables.

I walked to the front counter, and was greeted by the Chef, who happened to be passing by.  As all the other Staff were busy with customers, he led me to a table, took me through the Big Feast menu, and said one of the Servers would be with me shortly.  Prices for breakfast appeared to start at $6 and the lunch entrees seemed to start at $11. 

Sure enough, a few minutes later, a young lady appeared, asking if I was ready to place my order ?  There were choices for Breakfast or Lunch, and, after some serious deliberating, I chose the “In House Pepper Crusted Roast Beef Panini with Blue Cheese Crème Fraiche, Carmelized Onions and Arugula” with a side of “Citrus Infused Fresh Fruit Salad.”  For a drink, I decided to go with “English Breakfast Tea.”  She left, and I took another look around my table.  The Bistro was quite busy, with most of the tables being occupied.  There were four Servers, plus the Chef, from what I could see, and they were all friendly, and, it seemed to me, the perfect balance between attentive and obtrusive.   In one area, tucked in a corner was a small play area, to keep children occupied.  There was bright music playing softly enough that it didn’t cause the murmur of customer conversation to raise itself in competition.

Before I had a chance to look any further, my Tea was back, and although I was by myself, it came in a large pot, which was delightful.  I had barely finished putting the bag into my pot, and sugar in my cup, when my sandwich arrived.

First bite, and I was in Heaven.  I cannot recall a time when I have SO enjoyed a sandwich, as much as I enjoyed that Panini.

I was raised to mind my manners, and when in restaurants, I TRY to behave better than I sometimes do when I am at home… but there was nothing for it… I took my finger, and licked every drop of the Blue Cheese Crème Fraiche off the plate!  (And I raised my Fruit Salad cup in toast to Chef Mike.)

So, if you are out and about, in Maple Ridge…

No, strike that !!!

Make plans, to ensure that you ARE out and about in Maple Ridge, and drop by the Big Feast Bistro and Catering Company.  They are located at 11920 227th Street in Maple Ridge.  They are open every day of the week, from 8 am to 4 pm.   According to their website, they also have classes available, in addition to the Bistro and Catering businesses.

Their tag line says “Feasts for the everyday”.  Check it out, it will be well worth your while !!!

Fraser Valley Bead Show

A lifetime ago, my wife and I made glass lampwork beads, as a hobby.  We got proficient enough that it eventually evolved into a diversionary side business.  We had a booth at many local craft shows and it was a life, outside our regular lives.

Fraser Valley Bead Show - BobBlahBlah.comI’m not sure exactly when it started… But a flood of craft stores like Michaels and Crafts Canada, and stores such as HomeSense and Winners that sold inexpensive seasonal decorations… gave Local Craft Shows a tough time, and many shows folded their tents.

I was delighted to hear, this weekend, that a local Bead Show has overcome the odds, and expanded to add a Spring Show to their already successful Fall Show !Fraser Valley Bead Show -

The Fraser Valley Bead Show is starting today, March 12th, and runs through Sunday March 14th.  It is being held in the Conference Centre at the Executive Inn, at 405 North Road in Coquitlam.

At the show, you’ll find over 30 vendors, some local, some far flung, and all having a beautiful variety and array of wares.  Tools, seed beads, lampwork beads, art glass, findings, chains and booklets. Starter kits and lessons. Many, many, MANY beads for Pandora and Troll bracelets.

Fraser Valley Bead Show - BobBlahBlah.comAlready assembled earrings, necklaces, rings and brooches, sit next to the loose beads.

As a former bead-maker, I was more drawn to the lampwork beads, and there were some stunning examples of those… Which, sadly, the photos never catch the full essence of their beauty… (Especially when I forget my camera, and only have my BlackBerry.)

If you have a hankering for beads of any kind, or just to have a look, I would heartily suggest heading to Coquitlam, ponying up your $7 admission charge, and wallow in the goodness and camaraderie of fellow bead lovers.img00097-20100312-1534

Thanks to: Fire Design Beads, Caliente Art Glass, & Bella Vista Glass Art for letting me take pictures that sadly do NO justice to their stunning products and creations.  Thanks also to the artist who didn’t have business cards, and whose name I wrote down and subsequently lost the slip of paper, but who had a most beautiful booth.



White Rock Arts Council…

I am a few days tardy on this post, but have been a busy boy the last few days !

Last Thursday, February 4th,  my wife and I were invited to White Rock, for an art opening at the White Rock Arts Council –  Public Gallery.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d never been there before… but we picked up folks along the way, and I was directed to Windsor Square, a medium size Strip mall, on 152nd Street.  I thought we must just be using the parking lot, as it was after shopping hours… but the Gallery is right in the Mall, which is Brilliant!

Bringing the opportunity for Shoppers to support and enjoy the Arts, and at the same time having a “Main Street” venue from which to base their events?  Brilliant!

White Rock Arts Council - Jude Remedios - Gallery Opening - Feb 4th 2010 - Upon walking into the Gallery Storefront, we were met by our White Rock Arts Council Hosts, who were serving wine, soft drinks and nibblies.

I took a brochure, and was amazed to see that beyond the gallery, the White Rock Arts Council also is extending itself into other areas, as well.  There are a series of Literary Events — the next being on February 25th.  There are also upcoming Music and Film Series, details of which are available on the website at:

The Artist being featured in the Gallery was also in attendance that night, and her works were a study in contrasts and diversity!  Ranging from abstracts to nature-inspired images… I  have heard it said before… I don’t know much about art… but I know what I like… and I like Jude Remedios’s paintings !

She spoke briefly about the process of working on her Art, the different media she uses, and some of the inspiration for a few of the different pieces that were presented that evening.White Rock Arts Council - Jude Remedios - Gallery Opening - Feb 4th 2010 -

I had brought my camera, but failed to bring any memory cards, so only have a few poor quality Blackberry pictures, which will do nothing to share the intensity or vibrance of her work… but you can find a better representation of Jude Remedios’ artwork, on her website, at

The Gallery Series is on until February 26th.

In addition to the art, the store also has other gifts, posters, bags and t-shirts available for purchase.

The Gallery is located at Windsor Square Mall – 1959 152nd Street, South Surrey.

The Gallery and Shop hours are: Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 4 pm, and Saturday 11 am – 3pm.

Check it out, there are great things, in store !



Shaw Cable…

There are few things that cause me as much angst as the internet connection being slow, or worse… not working.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been having trouble sleeping, and as a result, waking up in the middle of the night.

When I wake up, I try to go back to sleep, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll get up and go to my computer.

When the internet doesn’t work at 3 am, it’s rough, because you can’t call and talk to anyone… Because the call will wake up everyone in the house.

By the next morning, it’s inevitably working… So the first time, I wasn’t going to call and say “Well… SURE it’s working NOW !”

My ISP (Internet Service Provider) is Shaw Cable.  They also provide my home phone and cable.  I have always thought their service was good, but this intermittent internet issue was ticking me off.

 Over the next few days, I started paying attention, and on Twitter, quite a few of my Tweeps are talking about how they are trying to get help from Shaw Cable, but having trouble getting a resolution of their issues.

However, after a few nights in a row of the same thing happening, I’m prepared to deal with calling Shaw.


I called, and was waiting about an hour, and after getting through to a Customer Service Rep, and explaining the issue… was told I had reached the wrong extension. When they transferred me to the correct department, I was connected briefly, and then dial tone.


Waited a few days, and a few more problem-filled nights, and then called again. Got the correct department this time, and spent over an hour with their specialist… Plugging and unplugging… Pinging and I can’t remember what else… but in the end, he apologized and said he really didn’t think there was anything he could do.   He said he’d make a note of it, and to please call if it happened again… if possible, when the internet wasn’t working.

I kind of wrote it off, and have been sleeping better, so haven’t gotten up in the middle of the night, for a week or so.

Today, there was a knock on the door.

shaw-logoTurns out it’s Phil from Shaw Cable.

He’s out tromping our neighbourhood in the rain, going door to door, asking folks if they have noticed any issues, and whether there is anything they need.

By the time he got to me, he’s talked to over 50 customers, and he admitted that more than 20 of us have mentioned the slow or dead internet in the evening or night.

So, they’re going to install a new Hub.

We are in an age where, when we have difficulty with something, we call for assistance… wait to speak with someone, and sometimes they can’t help us, but they say they’ll make a note of it… and we say thank you, but realistically in our heart of hearts, we believe that nothing is going to change, because nobody cares.

It was refreshing and reassuring to know that Shaw Cable cared enough to actually make notes about this matter, and have sent someone out to consult, and confirm that there is an issue, and will (we presume and hope) follow through, and act on their findings !

Thanks Shaw Cable for restoring my faith in what I’ve always found to be top notch customer service and care !

Firefly Fine Wines & Ales…

I don’t know what I’m doing.

When it comes to wine pairings… I don’t have a clue.

My usual practice, is to ask our guests if they would like wine with dinner, and if they say yes… to tell them what we are having for dinner, and ask their preference.

However, those days are behind me, because there is now a store to help folks like me, out.

Firefly Logo   Firefly Fine Wines and Ales has opened a store in Maple Ridge, and they organize their wine the traditional way (by Country), and also  by suggested food pairings (chicken, fish, steak, etc).

They are also refreshingly current in Social Media, being present on Twitter and through their Blog.

Of course, they also have a website…

But, in my mind, what sets these folks apart, is their connection with their customers.

I had been in the Maple Ridge store about three weeks after it first opened, and was there on a bit of a fact finding mission.  As regular readers of the BobSongs Blog will know, I like the odd Dram of Scotch, with a predilection for Single Malts.

When I walked in the store, I was struck by the friendly helpful attitude of the staff, and the unique way of organizing the wines.

As I perused the shelves, I was again asked if there was anything they could do to assist me… and as I had almost made my way entirely around the store, I confessed I must have missed the Scotch section, and sure enough, I had… despite being a quite substantial selection.

The lady who guided me suggested that Eliana would be better to assist me, as she knew more about Scotch, and she surely did !

She spent quite a bit of time, asking my likes and dislikes, and discussing with me the different tastes and finishing of some of their selection.

With a lot of information to absorb, I left with my head feeling like I had been drinking, rather than discussing Scotch… but it was a good “buzz” !

A few weeks later, I got this Tweet…

Firefly Tweet announcing a complimentary Scotch tasting on January 15th.

As luck would have it, I was available that evening, and dropped by.  The Robert Burns Scotch was relatively “young”, but mature for its age, and Firefly had brought  in Michelle, a Representative from Blue Note Wines & Spirits, a Distributor, who was very knowledgeable, and delighted to share her information about many different regions, finishes and the resulting Scotches.

When I left that evening, I brought with me a Welsh Whisky, Penderyn Single Malt, with Madeira finish, which I am enjoying tremendously.

They seem to have events and tastings quite regularly… as I write this, there are three coming up in Maple Ridge, in the next while… January 22nd, 23rd & 24th.

Next time you are wondering what to get, whether it be Wine, Beer or Spirits, I suggest stopping by Firefly Fine Wines and Spirits to see What’s In Store !

For selection, product knowledge, and customer care with that little bit extra…  I think they are pretty tough to beat !!!

Firefly Fine Wines and Spirits is located at 21755 Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge.

Check it out, next time you drive by!



David’s Tea…

For a substantial portion of my life, I ran a Store.

Now, wherever I go, I am blessed and cursed with a hyper-awareness of retail situations.

David's TeaI’ve prevented shoplifting, gotten assistance for cashiers who were swamped, and written letters of commendation, when exceptional service is given.

One example of an amazing retail experience came this week, when I ventured into the Kitsilano store of David’s Tea.

I am frequently on Twitter, and have had a number of conversations with people about various beverages.  In one of those conversations, when the subject was tea, it was recommended that I should find my way to David’s Tea.

So, earlier this week, when I unexpectedly found myself in Vancouver, with a few hours to kill… it struck me that I should search this business out.

Through their website,  I found the store on the corner of 4th and Yew, in Kitsilano.  (Although there are locations throughout Ontario, and more locations apparently imminent.)

The store was very tidy, white and bright, with upbeat music playing softly enough to not be intrusive to conversation.

I was greeted politely when I stepped through the door, and the woman behind the counter came to personally greet me, as soon as she had finished with the customer she was serving.

She could doubtlessly tell from my overwhelmed expression that I had not visited them before, and as she handed me a complimentary sample of the Day’s Tea Blend, I confirmed it.

She gave me a tour of the store, explaining first, the various infusers, and then taking me through the vast selection of the Teas themself.

The loose teas are all stored in metal cannisters with sealed lids, and as she gave me their Tea Menu, she explained that their teas are organized into Groupings: Black, Green, Blooming Tea Flowers, Herbal, Maté, Oolong, Rooibis, and White Teas, (as well as various sub-groupings) which are clearly marked on the outside of the tins, with big letters and colour coded by group.

The tea is sold by weight, with prices on the Menu.  Smaller batches are sold in resealable bags, and larger amounts can be bought in smaller versions of the store’s tins.

David's Tea - Vancouver Location

David's Tea - Vancouver Location

(They also sell their products online, through their website.)

The fragrant Blends of Teas all have quite distinct frangrances, and are also available for purchase by the cup… for take-out, or to test a flavour of tea, in advance of a purchase.

As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying a large mug of Assam Banaspaty Black Tea, which (for example) is described on the menu as being: (Organic, reserve) From India’s famed Banaspaty Estate, this fair-trade Assam has a good malty body and impressive, full complexity.  

There are two counters by the windows, a selection of newspapers, many stools, and a complimentary wireless internet connection available… and I could see that on a busy Saturday morning, you might have to arrive early to stake out your spot !

Whether you are an ardent fan of Tea, or just an occasional sipper, I would advise you to head to West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, and talk to the folks at David’s Tea.  They have the right stuff to fill up your cup, and lots of friendly knowledgeable staff to help you on your Tea journey !

Cheers !!!