Art in the Neighbourhood

I only had one day to enjoy the Eastside Culture Crawl this year, so I decided to concentrate on some of the smaller studios.

IMG_3002.JPG

I also took very few photos, snapshots with my iPhone, so I could give the bulk of my attention to the art. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and I loved hunting down studios through the quiet streets of Strathcona.

IMG_2999.JPG

I hope your weekend filled your eyes and hearts so well as this one did mine.

Chock Full of November

DSCF8149

Last Saturday, the Parade of Lost Souls inhabited Britannia Community Centre, leading the audience through a maze of performance, music, and interactive experiences informed by traditions acknowledging the waning of the year. I’ve told you about the parade before, but things have changed since then. The Public Dreams Society has, sadly, folded and Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret has taken over the stewardship of this event so it can live on. If you want them to be able to continue to do so, visiting their Indiegogo fundraising campaign would help a lot.

I’ve peppered the post with photos from this year’s parade, but it’s the rest of the month that I want to tell you about. My favourite event of November is always the Eastside Culture Crawl, which I’ve also told you about before. The Crawl is four days long now and well-worth all that tramping around the neighbourhood, no matter what the weather.

PoLS2

Now that you’ve set aside those four days for the Crawl, you can finish filling your calendar for the month – here are a few of your choices:

You look like the well-read sort; I just know you have a library card. So, I also know you’ll be thrilled that you can show it at the door for free entry into Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists. Your appetite for captivating presentations properly whetted, you might want to check out Interesting Vancouver next. There’s also a few days left of the Heart of the City Festival. Or, you can get in on the act (well, workshop) at this year’s CircusFest – I’ll be sticking with my role as audience member, personally. For a less strenous look behind the scenes, you can listen to some of the Culture Crawl’s artists at HOT TALKS: Eastside Culture Crawl.

PoLS1

There are more exhibitions and performances this month than I can reasonably mention, so I’ll just give you a taste of a few more that caught my attention.

You can pick up some original art while supporting the Seymour Art Gallery at their ‘Art Party!’ exhibition until November 8th. Kevin and I are big fans of Portland’s The Wonderheads and their latest show, Loon, sounds like another instance of their signature blend of magic and bittersweet. Museums matter and are more relevant than ever, as spaces like MOV are proving. On November 14th, I Came to See the Beautiful Things will celebrate museums with music, performance, and discussion.

So, by now you might be looking for a little bit of fun in this list. Doctor Strange’s Future Think Dinner Show might fit the bill. Or maybe all this activity just worked up your appetite. In that case, the Ocean Wise™ Chowder Chowdown will fill your belly while supporting sustainable seafood simultaneously. And with that out of the way, you can concentrate on some pre-holiday shopping therapy at a few of the MANY craft fairs that November brings.

Blim is always a good bet and The Province has a nice list that extends all the way into December. I’m also going to put in a good word for the craft fair that my mother is helping to put on at Sts. Joachim and Ann’s Parish in Aldergrove. They have some great crafters and artisans lined up.

PoLS3

And before I go, I’d like to remind you that this month, civic elections are happening across Metro Vancouver. The Broadbent Institute has started an interesting initiative to increase voter participation. Feed Democracy is a non-partisan awareness campaign that has some of Vancouver’s favourite spots to eat and drink signed on to help get the vote out. In Vancouver, advance polls opened today (though, rather maddeningly, not on the east side) and the big day is November 15th. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, there are at least three more all candidates meetings to go.

November, you are no wallflower.

The Bounty of the Valley

IMG_2510

I attended the Fraser Valley Food Show as a guest on a media tour, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the Fraser Valley, in a typically suburban neighbourhood, with 1/4 acre lots, corner stores, and tiny drive-in shopping centres that housed things like the local library and bank branches, along with bakeries, hardware stores and a Greek-Italian steakhouse or two. If we hopped on our bikes, we could ride out to where the farmland began, but it was mostly hobby farms and horse barns. The working farms were farther away.

We weren’t completely divorced from those farms, though. We were lucky enough that there were what we called ‘farm markets’ at intervals along Fraser Highway, stocked with local fruit and vegetables. My parents preferred to shop there over the supermarket, while also keeping an eye out for seasonal goodies like Chilliwack corn, fruit stands, and ‘U Pick’ berries. So, long before farm-to-table became de rigueur, we knew how lucky we were to live in such a fertile place.

But the Fraser Valley has more to offer than just the building blocks of good meals. From charcuterie to chocolate, from bread to beer, there are more and more businesses offering the kind of food and drink that’s been celebrated in hotbeds like Brooklyn or Portland. And the Fraser Valley Food Show does a good job of showcasing the range of what this region has to offer.

Sausage

I went on Saturday, just in time to beat the line for the Oktoberfest Sausage Tasting. I found it hard to choose amongst the nine or ten sausages I tried – they were all wonderful, some with a slow heat and others with a meaty savour. I certainly would have hated to be one of the three judges for the competition round. They had to sample 112 different sausages before coming to a decision about handing out multiple ribbons and trophies. You can see a list of the winners here. I suspect it might make a good basis for a self-guided tour of Metro Vancouver sausage makers.

Competition

The rest of my day was spent exploring the stalls, listening to speakers, and sampling, sampling, sampling. The Gluten Free Living show was particularly interesting to me, as my partner has celiac disease and we’re always looking for good gluten-free staples. There were lots of great prepared foods there, of course, but there were two things that really impressed me. First, all the exhibitors at the Food Show were knowledgeable about whether or not there was gluten (or allergens) in their products, whether they were in the gluten-free area or not. Secondly, there were some interesting ingredients on offer, like Nextjen gluten-free flour mix. It’s great to be able to buy a box of gluten-free cookies or pasta, but for someone who likes scratch cooking and baking, base ingredients that are safe and easy to use are an exciting development. And buying local makes it even better.

As for all that sampling I did, well, I’m going to give you a short list of some of the things that stood out for me this year. It won’t be comprehensive, because there was a lot of good stuff to eat, drink, and buy.

IMG_2515

Eat

ChocolaTas’ Chocolate Ganaches

JD Farms’ turkey sausages

Fire Belly’s pepper sauces

Drink

Shuswap Infusions’ teas

Parallel 49’s Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest beer

Glutenberg’s Chestnut Brown Ale

Campbell’s Gold mead and melomel

Learn

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go to an event like this, I find myself a little intimidated by the line in front of the All You Need is Cheese demonstration area. I don’t know if it’s because we got to the Food Show a little early, but there was only a short line on Saturday. So, I ducked in with Mary from Vancouver Bits and Bites and Cathy Browne. (It was so nice to meet you, ladies.) In a short time, we had a tasting of seven different cheeses across several categories. Many of them were BC cheeses, too. I learned a thing or two and my taste buds were primed for heading over to the Wine, Beer, and Spirits Tasting.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ned Bell’s presentation. He spoke about his cross-Canada cycle trip in support of sustainable seafood and then he showed us how to break down a salmon, while giving us tips and information on how to work sustainable seafood into our diets. I wasn’t aware that land-based fish farming is one source of sustainable seafood and I certainly hadn’t thought about the cost savings involved in buying a whole salmon, breaking it down, and freezing it in portions. You can find out more about Bell’s ride at Chefs for Oceans and here’s a link to my go to resource for information about sustainable seafood, Ocean Wise.

IMG_2522.JPG

My only quibble with the show is that I’d like to see them showcase more local restaurants in their Bite of the Valley category. I’d love the opportunity to sample small plates from any of the great restaurants that put the food produced in the Fraser Valley to such good use. It would make the show a complete journey from farm to plate.

Happy Swoktoberfest

Swoktober 2

Steam Whistle Brewing provided me with an entry ticket to their Oktoberfest party on September 20th, along with a keepsake stein. However, I received no compensation and all opinions in the following post are my own.

Vancouver has become a craft brewing hotspot over the last few years and it seems natural that our cultural scene would find ways to celebrate the diversity and quality of the beers we have available to us now.

Take Oktoberfest – unlike Ontario celebrations, Oktoberfest was limited to small German cultural centres for a long time in Vancouver. But in the last few years, Oktoberfest celebrations have sprung up in restaurants, bars, and even downtown. I was given the opportunity to check out one of the first of this year’s events by Steam Whistle Brewing, who held their 2nd annual Oktoberfest party at The Imperial on September 20th. They debuted this year’s reusable steins, got folks into Bavarian alpine hats, and threw a party.

Swoktober

Bestie was there, with sausage, saurkraut, and pretzels (and amazing mustard sauce, I might add). Polka music was provided by the Rheinlander Oom-pah Band, while the Austria Vancouver Club Edelweiss Dancers showed off German folk dances. Many of the guests got into the act, too, and there were some impressive traditional German costumes all around the room.

The best part of this Oktoberfest, for me, was how well the event catered to patrons young and old. It wasn’t just a university crowd – there were people ranging from their early twenties to well over sixty and you could tell it was a family evening out for many of them. And Steam Whistle’s pilsner is delicious – which is something coming from a stout and ale lover. (Steam Whistle is one of the early entries into better Canadian beer, having been around since 2000 and concentrating on their pilsner exclusively.)

You can get a stein and try their beer for yourself throughout October at Donnelly Group locations.

Now tell me, have you been celebrating Oktoberfest this year? There are plenty of options – what’s been your favourite?

Festivals, Fall, and Fun

Dahlia2

The days are getting noticeably shorter, now. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot left to do before the first frost. Now, that’s true for my garden, but right now I’m talking about all the summer events that are still keeping the city busy and the fall events to come.

Family Fun

There’s still plenty to do before school begins and MetroVancouver‘s activities for kids, youth, and families would be a good place to start – you can learn to fish, take a nighttime stroll in search of bats, or help clean up our shorelines.

I like to celebrate the end of summer the way generations of BC folks have and visit the PNE. Who could resist a fair that provides farming displays, a building full of gadgets, super dogs, more food stands than you could ever visit, and an amusement park?

Speaking of traditions, Saturday movies were a staple of my childhood, so I’m glad there’s a series of $2.50 family movies for kids of this generation.

And for those of you who are ready to embrace autumn with your family, there are a LOT of corn mazes in Metro Vancouver. The Chillwack Corn Maze is the best-known, but Hopcott’s Meadow Maze, Bose Corn Maze, and
Mann Farms’ Wizard of Oz themed maze look like a lot of fun, too.

Adults Can Have Fun, Too

Start with Forbidden Vancouver‘s walking tours, which focus on Vancouver’s seamy side – speakeasies, brothels, and murder most foul all make an appearance.

Bored with brewery tours? Hit up Gin & Tonic Fridays at Long Table Distilleries for a weekend treat.

Who Said Festival Season Is Over?

TAIWANfest brings August to a close with films, lectures, food and more.

For a more rhythmic affair, the Vancouver International Tap Festival is back, culminating in a mass tap explosion on Granville Street on the 31st.

After you’ve finished dancing your heart out, it’s time for the Fringe Festival, bringing the city alive with theatre as we move into autumn.

Then, head over to the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival to kick off film fest season.

Harvest Bounty

Many of the community centres around Vancouver are hosting food-focused workshops this fall. For instance, Cedar Cottage Food Network is giving workshops on fermented foods, putting your garden to bed for the winter, cheese-making, and bread baking.

There are also plenty of harvest festivals coming up, too, like the Bowen Heritage Applefest or Earthwise Society’s Tomato Fest.

And right now is when the farmers’ markets will be overflowing with great produce, so it’s time to stock up.

Eventually, you’ll have to go home, so make sure you’ve made the best of the harvest while it lasts. With any luck, you’ll be eating well until it’s time to break ground again in the spring.

Tomatoes2

Seed-Saving Season

green zebra

It’s peak harvest time in the garden now and many of us are focused on eating and preserving as much as we can. But it’s also time to think about next year’s garden, so leaving a few fruits and vegetables to fully mature so that you can harvest the seeds can be part of the plan, too. As I’ve told you before, I’ve been successful saving seeds from the heirloom beans my family grows, but I’m trying to expand those skills.

workshop

With that in mind, I headed over to Figaro’s Garden on Sunday to attend their Intro to Seed Saving workshop. The owners are committed to becoming a centre for our neighbourhood’s organic gardening needs and they’ve been providing regular workshops to share skills and build community. They’ve also got a strong connection with Environmental Youth Alliance, which works with young people to build skills and connections with the natural world. One of the owners is the Executive Director of EYA and EYA’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, Katrina Sterba, is also Figaro’s Event Co-ordinator. This crossover has meant that there is a strong grassroots ethos at the garden centre, along with a deep knowledge base for teaching and community outreach.

Presenter

Sterba led the workshop, allowing some folks from around the neighbourhood to benefit from her expertise. We all had various levels of experience and success with seed-saving, from complete novice to regular experimenter. The workshop led us through a primer on which seeds are the most viable for seed-saving – open pollinated, self-fertile plants are easiest for beginners, while hybrids and some heirloom seeds won’t necessarily grow to resemble the plants they came from. Each of us got a pamphlet with a run down of the concepts she covered and a resource guide for further exploration.

Thresh

Next, we had a demonstration of the two most common methods of seed-saving: dry and wet. Katrina gave us hands on experience of threshing and winnowing some spring wheat that had been grown right here in East Van. Then, she demonstrated the wet method with one of the most luscious-looking Green Zebra tomatoes I’ve seen.

We also learned from each other. I now have a plan in mind for starting tomato seeds indoors next winter – no small feat in a two-bedroom apartment. There was also a spirited discussion of how to rescue sunflower seeds from hungry birds, or whether we even should.

Demonstration Garden

If you’re in Vancouver, I recommend stopping by Figaro’s Garden for a look at their demonstration gardens or a chat with their staff about your gardening needs. I’ve gotten a number of plants from them over the years, from a dogwood bush for my parents’ (late, lamented) farm to a flat full of annuals for my flower baskets. I’m also going to keep an eye out for more workshops, like the Mason Bee primer they’ll be hosting on September 27th – I think I might become a regular student. In the meantime, I’ve already expanded my seed-saving to the sage plant that flowered abundantly this summer and the peas I grew from seed I got at a seed swap this spring. I’m also keeping an eye on the nasturtiums I picked up from the Kensington-Cedar Cottage Seed Sharing Library so that I can return some to them and keep some for next year’s garden.

Maybe someday, if I keep up the learning, I’ll be able to stop calling myself a beginning gardener.

Console Archaeology – The Evolution of Gaming

PacMan

The history of console games is largely concurrent with my own history.The first console game I ever played was a variation of Pong. My sister and brother and I would go over to my uncle’s house and we’d take turns playing that game with our cousins for hours. It might be unimaginable now, but that square “ball” slowly moving back and forth across the screen was fascinating and fun for us.

It wasn’t long before our gaming options increased and that first game system was gathering dust. Our adolescence happened during the heyday of arcade gaming and I can remember spending afternoons giggling with my sister across a tabletop console, playing Asteroids. Now, that game doesn’t seem much more sophisticated than Pong.

Consoles

My fascination with gaming waned until well into my adulthood, when I started to become curious about games’ potential for storytelling. Today’s games are richer, visually and experientially, than anything we could have imagined while playing those early games. They are also gaining ground in the realm of storytelling. Though Roger Ebert famously denied games’ potential as art, it’s likely that history will prove him wrong. When you look at how quickly games have progressed since the early Seventies, art might not be too many iterations away.

More importantly for most of us, though, was the camaraderie that was such a big part of gaming. It’s where our culture first learned that interacting with machines could become a profoundly social experience. Those moving pixels were very rarely a solo show – kids would crowd around consoles at home, or do battle in twos, and at the arcade, score-sharing and rivalries were the order of the day.

Tetris

That’s the scene that was playing out today at the Centre for Digital Media, where I went to experience their exhibit, the Evolution of Gaming. They had examples of many of the most popular games from 1972 onward. It was interesting to try my hand at some of my old favourites, but it was more interesting to see families with kids exploring the equipment and testing out gameplay – gingerly, for most of the consoles had large labels asking users to play gently. I imagined the parents were trying to describe how new and innovative these games were when they first arrived on the scene.

Screens

At the same time, you can see how the structure of games has remained constant throughout the years, too. Many of the role-playing games are remarkably similar to the more technically and visually complex RPGs of today. There’s even something charming about their pixelated simplicity. The same can be said of fighting games, too. The changes in responsiveness have made games more challenging, but they are understandable in the same terms as those earlier games.

Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibit was the newest game, a virtual reality romp that has you in the role of an angry Yeti let loose on downtown Vancouver. I enjoyed it not because it’s so much more advanced than the others on exhibit, but because virtual reality games are in their infancy. That newness, with so much potential and so many limitations, brought the exhibit full circle. It made me wonder how quickly this generation of games will become artifacts and what new ways we’ll find to connect and explore in the realm of machines.

Atari

The Evolution of Gaming is on until August 10th at the Centre for Digital Media.

Are You Feeling Hot?

Cat

Our recent heat wave has had me feeling like this cat – ready to curl up in a cool, dark corner to wait it out. The problem is that there’s just too much going on here in the summertime. So, it’s sunscreen and lots of water, braving the heat to make it to at least some of the shows, festivals, and concerts that are happening around the city.

Of course, the biggest event of July is always the Vancouver Folk Festival, but there’s a lot more music out there. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden’s Enchanted Evenings series, Vancouver Early Music’s Summer Festival, and CBC’s Musical Nooners are a few of the other events waiting to fill your ears this month. Or perhaps you’d rather combine your music with a little dance at the Robson Square Summer Dance Series.

You can fill your eyes with theatre, art, artifacts, and more at Bard on the Beach, the Queer Arts Festival, Babes & Bathers, or the Summer Cinema Series.

There are festivals happening around the region this month, too, like Surrey’s Fusion Festival, Aldergrove Fair Days, or North Vancouver’s Caribbean Days Festival.

And Foodies need have no fear – there are plenty of events coming up for you, too. If Food Cart Fest is too broad a canvas for you, you can get specific and head for Brewery and the Beast for a more beer and meat focused experience. Heck, you can skip food altogether and just sign up for a brewery tour instead.

There’s even a craft fair this month, Circle Craft’s Summer Market, for those of you who would rather get their shop on.

Of course, the most tried-and-true way to beat the heat is to embrace it and Vancouver has plenty of beaches to allow you to do just that.

Blossoms

As for me, I’m keeping my eye out for the ways my neighbours are celebrating summer. There seems to be something interesting around every corner these days.

Artistic Exploration – A Round Up of Public Art in Vancouver

Chair

Public art can be controversial or beloved, corporate or community-driven. At its best, it focuses the viewer’s attention on the space it occupies, contextualizing it in a new way. Now that spring is turning into summer, it’s the perfect time to explore the city, looking for these interventions along the way.

Here are a few places to start you off:

The City of Vancouver’s map of public art installations

Our City. Our Art.

Vancouver Biennale

100 in 1 Day

Tight City

The Year of Reconciliation art project

The Dude Chilling Art Exchange

Now, tell me what I’ve missed in Vancouver if you live here, or if you don’t, let me know what the public art scene is like where you live.

The chair in the photo at the top of the post was part of the Chair Project YVR project, which took place this spring.

Spring Into It

Blossoms

I’m looking forward to spending more time outdoors, now that the blossoms are out, though it looks like the weather won’t be cooperating for the next week, at least. There’s a lot of rain in the forecast. I hope it lets up soon, because there are plenty of events on the horizon here.

In Bloom

March and April are Vancouver’s most beautiful months, in large part because we have so many blossoming trees at this time of year. The Cherry Blossom Festival takes full advantage of their beauty and celebrates with events all month long. Here are a few highlights:

Sakura Days Japan Fair
Plein-Air Blossom Painting
Bike the Blossoms

Crafty Sales

Spring is a time for clearing out the old, but that just makes way for the new. So, it seems natural that craft and fashion sales are making a reappearance at this time of year:

Nifty for Fifty
Great Canadian Craft Show
Blim
Got Craft?

Foodie Fun

It might be time to start the garden, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home to taste and talk about food:

Bakers’ Market
Slow Food Vancouver’s Olive Oil Tasting
Food For Thought, a governance conference focusing this year on food security, sustainability, and sovereignty
EAT! Vancouver

Art Attack

Food may be a creative outlet for many, but there are plenty of ways to experience more traditional artistic expressions this spring, too:

Discuss public art, immerse yourself in FUSE’s mix of performance and music amidst the Vancouver Art Gallery’s current exhibits, and get in there and root for artists making art at Art Battle Canada.

Or, go DIY and head out to Vancouver’s Mini Maker Faire, instead.

Kicking It Up a Notch

Roller Derby is high-energy and a lot of fun. Fitting for a sport that takes off as the weather gets warmer. Terminal City Rollergirls’ Season Opener is on April 5th. If you want to make your own mayhem, you might want to show up for Pillow Fight Club 9.0 instead. Or perhaps a perfect storm of “wibbly wobbly… sexy wexy… stuff” is more your speed – Geekenders have got you (at least) covered. But maybe you’re more of a hardcore nerd – thank goodness for Fan Expo Vancouver.

As for me, I’m going to be spending a lot of time planting, weeding, and rearranging the garden over the next six months. I think that’s a good enough reason to reward myself for my hard work with at least some of these less labour-intensive forms of fun.

Dirt