Chock Full of November


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.


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.


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.


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.


Spring Into It


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
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.


FFWD – Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge


When I tell people I’m part of a group that’s cooking through a French cookbook together, I think they imagine the classic dishes set forth by Julia Child or the regional comprehensiveness of Elizabeth David. There are plenty of classic dishes and regional favourites, it’s true, but the book also reflects the diversity of modern France. It’s further inflected by a sort of translation wrought by its American author, who wrote the book with North American kitchens and pantries in mind.

The recipes are transformed, once again, by the time we post our versions each Friday. Each take on the recipe can’t help but be inflected by the individuals who make them, in kitchens across the world – the United States and Canada, yes, but also Argentina, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, and more.


So, when I tackled this week’s recipes, two tartines from a popular café in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris neighbourhood, it’s not surprising that they ended up with a faint Italian accent. Commercial Drive is still (symbolically, at least) the heart of Vancouver’s Italian community. Many of the cafés, bakeries, and delis have a long family history here, even though the children and grandchildren of their founders have had to move out of the area as housing costs increased.


I made two stops in my quest for ingredients for the tartines. First, I went to The Daily Catch to pick up some smoked Sockeye salmon. Then, I headed over to Bosa for the roast beef and bread. Bosa has opened up an enormous Italian grocery store and deli in the furthest eastern regions of the city, but their original location is just a few blocks away and has a great selection in their deli case.


When I got home, I sliced the whole wheat and millet bread into strips, then toasted them under the broiler.

For the tartine norvégienne, I spread the toast with a bit of mayonnaise, instead of butter, and freshly ground pepper, before layering the salmon and capers on top. I finished them with a squeeze of lemon.

The toast for the tartine saint-germain was spread with a mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard (in hopes the mustard would impart a hint of Paris), then a layer of thinly sliced cornichons, and a generous layer of garlic roast beef.

Roast Beast

The tartines in Around My French Table are a reminder that sandwiches, open-faced or not, can be richly flavoured and sophisticated. I would serve these tartines at a cocktail party or as part of a first course. I’m also counting the days until I can have another Goat Cheese and Strawberry Tartine with local berries.

In the meantime, I’m going to read through the rest of the Doristas’ versions of this week’s tartines, so their personal and regional inflections can inspire my own cooking experiments to come.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this FFWD recipe here: Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge

Domestic Dreams


The weekend before last, I was lucky enough to win tickets to the BC Home and Garden Show, courtesy of Tracey from Fashion Forward 40. Thanks again, Tracey, for the tickets!

The show took place on the enormous floor of BC Place, while Portobello West took over the upper concourse.


There was plenty to see and not all of it was aspirational. I enjoyed talking to the gardening exhibitors and got some contact information for contractors our housing co-op might be interested in.

What struck me, though, was how geared to suburban living the show still seems to be. There were gorgeous indoor and outdoor kitchen displays, backyard living rooms, and everything one could dream of for the kind of single family home that I grew up in. There wasn’t as much for apartment-dwellers like me. I think with the ascendance of condos in this region, that this focus will change.


In the meantime, there were plenty of lifestyle booths to peruse, with kitchen gadgets being near the top of my list. I had a great day exploring and managed to exit the show without emptying my pocketbook too terribly.


I’d love to hear what you’re looking for in home and design shows. Or, are there other sorts of trade shows that get you out the door?

I’m a Sucker for a Good Craft Fair

It’s that time again, full of craft fairs, holiday events, and lots and lots of food.

Since I’m still not quite back into the swing of writing regularly again, I thought I’d do a little round up of some things that have caught my eye.


Strathcona Winter Craft Fair
Crafts for a Cause
Got Craft?
Women’s Winter Faire
Shiny Fuzzy Muddy


Baker’s Market
Vancouver Farmers’ Market Holiday Market
Dinner with the Wild Things


Choral Concert Calendar
Universal Gospel Choir
Early Music


Giant Used Book Sale


Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

Now, I’m going back to perusing cookie recipes for some upcoming swaps. What seasonal sorts of things are you looking forward to?

Gluten-Free Goodness in Vancouver

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

On Sunday, Kevin and I visited Vancouver’s first (annual, I hope) Gluten-Free Expo. I didn’t take any photos there, as I’d intended, because the crowds were huge. Around 3,000 people attended, so many that some booths ran out of stock and had to send for more. Some of our favourite gluten-free vendors were there and we discovered some new ones, too. Things are looking up for those with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

Inspired by the expo, I thought I’d do a round up of some great gluten-free goods. I’ve posted about a few favourites before, but the list just keeps growing. As does the awareness of how to serve gluten-avoiding customers safely in restaurants.

Chicken B’stilla

Gluten-Free Bakeries


Mountain Top Café and Bakery

Panne Rizo

The Sweet Tooth Cakery


Choices Rice Bakery

Gluten-Free Grocers

All Choices stores label gluten-free goods with a blue shelf tag and stores like East End Food Co-op, Donald’s Market, Nestor’s, and Drive Organics carry gluten-free goods, but there’s only one store in Vancouver that is dedicated to gluten-free goods entirely – Ed’s Gluten Free Specialty (which has sadly gone out of business, now).

If you’re looking for gluten-free flours, though, my first choice is Famous Foods. They have a huge selection of flours, along with tonnes of grains, nuts, and seeds.

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

Gluten-Free Dining

Vancouver is a great city for gluten-free eating. So many establishments get it. I’m listing a few that we’ve had good experiences with, but there are many more. Call ahead and ask if the restaurant you’re interested in can accommodate a gluten-free eater. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many places, even if they don’t have a dedicated gluten-free menu, know how to take care of people who avoid gluten.

The Reef on Commercial Drive


The Fish House


East is East

Biercraft on the Drive

The Wallflower

Gluten-Free Resources

The Canadian Celiac Association

The Celiac Scene

Gluten-Free Vancouver

Tapenade Bâtons

All the photos in this week’s post are gluten-free dishes from past posts. Here’s the list, if you’re interested:

A Tale of Two Crusts

Mustard Bâtons

Chicken B’Stilla

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

It’s That Time of Year

Branches against the sky.

The day after next, I can officially begin listening to Christmas carols. I like to wait until December, so the season doesn’t lose its shine too quickly. I like the standards and traditional songs, especially Medieval carols, and I also have a soft spot for Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. I’m especially looking forward to pulling out Susan McKeown and Lindsey Horner’s Through the Bitter Frost and Snow and Nativité by Vancouver choral group Musica Intima. Sadly, I think I’ve lost my copy of the Chieftains’ Christmas album, but I’ve got enough music to get me through the month.

Lovely ceramics from Blackbird Studios.

My favourite part of this season is getting together with some folks, baking holiday cookies and squares. I also love visiting craft fairs and seeing what the independent stores around Vancouver have to offer. I don’t like the way consumer culture goes into hyper drive at this time of year, though. I most admire those who take the time to find or make meaningful gifts, without getting carried away by quantity or expense. The Kitchn is always a good resource for homemade gift ideas, but there are tonnes of others, too.

So many Make It posters!

For Vancouverites, the holiday craft fair season starts with Make It, a huge four-day craft show. I was lucky enough to score tickets, courtesy of the Bee Vancity crew, and the photos you see were taken there. Got Craft? has put together a quite comprehensive list of upcoming craft fairs and sales that should take care of just about anyone’s shopping list. Local, unusual, and often sustainable – this sort of gift-shopping can be an antidote to the corporate Christmas model.

The folks at the Just Work ( table.

I don’t take it for granted that the yearly love affair with Christmas traditions is universal, though. Something I never fail to do each year is to be mindful of the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or participates in winter celebrations the way that I do. A little mindfulness is one of my traditions, too.

My Friend Monster's stuffed creations.

Now tell me, what does December hold for you?

Jacqueline Robin's beautiful black and white ceramics.

A little something to heal the spirit

It’s the day after our federal election and I’m in need of a lighthearted post – it was an extremely dramatic election night.

So, here’s a small round up of some of the things that are happening in this neck of the woods:

On Thursday, the Museum of Vancouver opens its exhibition, about the history of Bhangra in Vancouver. Their programming has become absolutely stellar, both in the museum itself and in the ways it takes its exhibitions beyond that space.

This coming weekend, the Ederlezi Balkan Brass Festival puts on a bunch of high-energy shows. Or, if crafts are more your thing, you can go to Got Craft? and do some last-minute Mothers’ Day shopping.

The next weekend, the 2011 Northern Voice Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference is happening. I’m looking forward to the photo workshops, especially as the conference is on the same weekend as this.

I’m happy the Vancouver Farmers’ Market summer season is beginning again soon – I’ve been missing the convenience of going to the Trout Lake site.

Throughout much of May, you can check out emerging artists at Emily Carr University’s Degree Exhibition.

That’s only a smidgeon of what’s going on, of course. Here are a few links to sites that can tell you about even more:


Vancouver is Awesome

Georgia Straight

I’d love to know what’s happening where you are. Or, if you’re from here, anything I’ve missed that you’d like to share.

Holidaying on Main Street

After Saturday’s Baking Swap, I took my haul (including some beautiful squash and beets I’d picked up) and headed down Main Street. The stretch of Main between about 8th and 30th is full of eclectic stores, good coffee shops and excellent restaurants. There were holiday craft fairs at Little Mountain Studios and Heritage Hall and the shops along Main were full of present-worthy goods. I had something else in mind, though.

There’s a wonderful tearoom called Shaktea at 21st and Main and the chilly, damp day was making me crave a good cup of tea. (Those who know me will know that there is very little that doesn’t make me crave a good cup of tea, but it would not be kind of them to mention that.) I decided that I would indulge myself there for a break from shopping. I ordered a cup of their holiday tea, a black tea with winter spices, citrus and rose petals. Many winter or holiday spiced teas can be a little overpowering. This tea, though, was flavourful and fragrant, with just the right balance between the spices and the tea itself.

There were two harpists playing while I was there and I got to hear Greensleeves, one of my favourite traditional tunes. The tea, the music and the cosily appointed room all worked to make me feel relaxed and invigorated at the same time. If I hadn’t had to go meet my partner, I’d have had difficulty leaving. I consoled myself by buying a bag of holiday tea to take home and went on my way.

After some record shopping at Red Cat and more craft fair browsing, it was finally time for a meal. My partner and I chose Burgoo, a restaurant specializing in comfort food and a perfect choice for an increasingly cold and rainy day. Burgoo’s interior reminds me of a quaint English pub. Some of its menu would fit into that category, too. The rest is a selection of comfort food from around the world. My partner chose butter chicken, which he said was a healthier version of the traditional dish. The chicken was tender and the sauce was tasty and light, lacking the rich creaminess he’s come to expect elsewhere. I had the split pea soup with the ham and brie sandwich. The soup was fantastic, tasting of thyme and ham and with a chunkier texture than many versions I’ve tried. The sandwich was good, but I wish the brie had been warm and melty, rather than cold. It would have been perfect, then.

I have to admit that we went home that day without finishing our Christmas shopping, but I’ll be back on Main again this week, with a little more focus and a little less indulgence.

In the meantime, here’s a short round up of a few of the places you ought to get to know, if you’ve still got some names left on your list:

The Regional Assembly of Text
Urban Source
Lucky’s Comics
Pulp Fiction
Three Bags Full

Shaktea on Urbanspoon

Burgoo (Main Street) on Urbanspoon

FFWD – Speculoos

At Christmas time, I invariably end up on Main Street. It’s my favourite street for gift-shopping. If truth be told, it’s also my favourite street for breaks and meals pre, mid and post gift-shopping. On Saturday, I had an extra incentive for heading out that way. The Winter Farmers’ Market had their first-ever baking exchange and I had the perfect recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Speculoos.

I started the recipe Friday night, making the dough and chilling it overnight. The dough was a little crumbly when I was rolling it out, but by morning it was easy to handle. I worked quickly to cut out shapes and get them onto the pan, before the dough softened too much. When the cookies came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with sanding sugar. The best part, though, was testing one. I was so surprised at the crispness of the cookie. I never really expected it to measure up to the crunch of its commercial cousins. Other recipes I’ve tried were never more than crisp-ish. These would be perfect with coffee, especially if you indulged in a little dipping. I can also see the appeal of turning them into sandwich cookies with nutella or dulce de leche filling.

I only needed two dozen cookies for the swap, so I packaged them quickly (using an image I’d found online for the tags) and headed for the Market. I dropped off my cookies and did some shopping while I waited for the swap to begin. Cleverly, the organizer had set up paper bags with participants’ names on them and put our cookies inside. Since we’d all brought two packages of a dozen cookies, we couldn’t have a sample of each kind. Instead, we were invited to pick two bags, making sure they didn’t have our own names on them. I love the grab bag concept. I was pleased to find myself in possession of Roberta LaQuaglia’s Cherry Cornmeal Cookies and Jennifer Zuk’s Chocolate Oatmeal Maraschino Cookies. I’ve tasted them both and can attest that they are delicious. The rest are earmarked for holiday celebrations. Thanks to Robyn Carlson of the Market for organizing the swap – I’m already looking forward to next year’s!

On Tuesday, I’ll let you know what I got up to after the swap as I headed down Main Street.

We’re doing things a little differently again for the month of December. We’re still posting weekly, but people are free to post this month’s recipes in any order. You can find many other blogged descriptions of this month’s FFWD recipes here: LYL: December 17