A Wishlist For a Rainy Friday Night

Poppies in bloom

These poppies got a battering from today’s rain showers. I hope they survived it. We’re having a quiet evening in tonight, all the better to avoid a rain-battering ourselves.

It’s left me with lots of time to think on what I’d like to see happen in my community and beyond.

Here are a few wishlist items:

I’d like the City of Vancouver to give housing co-operatives a break on property taxes. They provide the kind of mixed income, diverse housing that the current council wants to see. And while we’re at it, let’s have the federal government provide grants to co-operatives who want to expand, especially in underserved categories like one bedroom, three and four bedroom, and accessible suites.

Oh, for some walkable, bikeable, human-scale development in the Fraser Valley. Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood is being eyed by real estate developers, who’ll likely replace the quiet grid of half acre lots with condo blocks, shopping malls, and eight lane arterial roads. Instead, they could use subdivision to create density, then line the busier streets with midrise buildings that encourage the kind of businesses and street life that are being lost in the Vancouver neighbourhoods threatened by condo tower annihilation.

And then, a restructuring of our transit system might be in order, with low cost light rail serving neighbourhood hubs and fare structures that encourage drivers to abandon their cars, while ensuring youth, seniors, students, and the poor can get where they’re going.

I’d also like a patisserie to go into the vacant storefront at the end of my block, in case any entrepreneurs are feeling malleable.

What’s on your wishlist?

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Spring Things

Persea Fumée

It’s been an busy season so far and there’s lots more to come, at least there is around here. The photos scattered through this post are from two of the events I’ve attended this month – the Avo Showdown and the Lick My Plate launch. Now I’m looking forward to fun with food, stimulating presentations, and more than a little art appreciation over the next few weeks.

Lick Your Plate treats

Tomorrow, the Heritage Vancouver Society hosts the first in the Shaping Vancouver 2016 series – What’s a Neighbourhood? In the face of so much change in our city, what are the things we should be preserving or encouraging to maintain and promote community in our neighbourhoods?

AvoShowdown entries

This coming weekend, you’ve got a chance to weigh in on the Vancouver Public Library’s future. Whatever comes of these sessions, that future should include physical books. They’re still the surest way to guarantee equal access to knowledge, especially in a climate of growing income inequality.

Lick Your Plate swag

The weekend after, there are two events I’m excited about – the Parker Art Salon and the East Van Hop Circuit.

The Parker Art Salon is a chance to view and buy art from the studios at 1000 Parker Street, with a little less chaos and much warmer weather than November’s Culture Crawl. The Hop Circuit is a self-guided tour of 13 of my neighbourhood’s craft breweries, with some samples, insider tours, and food trucks. Both are within walking distance for me, cycling distance for many, and transit for everyone else – I wouldn’t drive if I were you, the parking alone will just make you miserable. Between the two events, I think I’ve got that weekend covered.

AvoShowdown contestants

And just in case you need a little incentive to (a) add to your cookbook collection and (b) get canning/fermenting/preserving, the folks behind Well Preserved have released a cool zine-style bonus package for their upcoming Batch Cookbook. Once you’ve pre-ordered the book, you can find the download link, here.

AvoShowdown appetizers

At the very least, April’s already shaping up to be a delicious month, if what I’ve tasted so far is any indication.

Avocado Parfait

G-W Portraits: Tara Sawatsky & Kevin Sauvé

 

Grandview-Woodland is home to a number of non-profits and many community activists, cultural workers, and civic sector employees make their home here, too.

Tara Sawatsky and Kevin Sauvé live in a housing co-operative in the Commercial Drive area, do great work, and love Grandview-Woodland.

We spoke on a windy December day (apologies for the sound quality), then headed off to a co-op holiday potluck.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

Have you checked out my 2015 holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways here and enter until December 17th.

G-W Portraits: Ange Gleeson

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So many people I know have moved away from this neighbourhood, only to return as soon as life lets them. Consciously choosing this neighbourhood is something that has come up over and over again in the short time I’ve been doing these interviews, so I wasn’t surprised to hear this from Ange Gleeson, too.

She’s one of the people that makes this neighbourhood shine, with a humourous anecdote always at the ready.

We did the interview near Britannia library and before we got started, Ange was chatting with passersby and even sharing the cookies I brought her. It was a reminder of how engaged people are in this neighbourhood. We talk to one another here.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

Yes In My Back Yard

  

As we get closer to the holidays, hamper drives, toy collections, and cold weather clothing donations are on the public radar. But the rest of the year, though the need remains, donations subside, until the holidays come again.

That’s why year-round gestures can make such a difference. Starting a spring or summer food drive, making monthly donations to a food bank or shelter, donating clothing and other wishlist items to places like Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter – these are a few of the ways that can help people stay healthier and safer throughout the year.

Day-to-day gestures matter too, like Nelson the Seagull‘s suspended coffee program. Not only do they get food or a hot drink into the hands of someone who would otherwise go without, but it also keeps year-long needs in the public consciousness. And it benefits people who are often shut out of participation, or even acknowledgement, in the neighbourhoods where they live. The opportunity to be seen as a customer instead of a problem is no small thing. It opens the door to conversation and comfort, in place of isolation.

Today, while meeting a friend for coffee on Commercial Drive, I noticed that Renzo’s Coffee was participating in a pay-it-forward project created by four students through the City Studio program. Yimby Vancouver is a week-long experiment in paying it forward at four Commercial Drive cafés.

  
It’s not just about coffee, either. You can pay for any menu item, have it noted on one of Yimby’s cards, and pin it up on the board outside the café. Then, someone in need can turn the card in at the register.

I’d love to see this become a permanent program at businesses on the Drive and throughout the city. For now, you can participate until November 28th at Renzo’s, Eternal Abundance, Café du Soleil, and Babylon Café.

G-W Portraits: Terrence Feng

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It’s hard to tease apart the DNA of a good neighbourhood, but I’m certain that one can’t survive without local businesses that are as engaged as its residents. That’s true of Grandview-Woodland’s business community, especially the grocers, retailers, and restaurateurs along Commercial Drive and Hastings.

It’s certainly been true of the owners and staff of Kin Kao Thai Kitchen. Since they opened in February of this year, they’ve done a roaring business with patrons from across the city. But they’ve also become great neighbours, who always remember your name and your favourites from the menu and are happy to say hello when they run into you around the Drive.

Their food has become a regular habit at our house and they’ve been especially careful and thoughtful around Kevin’s gluten-free and vegan requirements.

Now that they’ve been denizens of the Drive for the better part of a year, I thought I’d ask Terrence Feng, one of Kin Kao’s owners, to share his thoughts about Grandview-Woodland.

You can find out more about Kin Kao on their website and in the review I published when they first opened. We love them for dinner and takeout, but don’t forget to try their lunch and brunch menus.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Trevor & Rowan Whitridge

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I’ve often said that there is art being made all around this neighbourhood, but much of it isn’t apparent. This has been a popular neighbourhood for artists, performers, writers, and makers over the years, but you don’t necessarily know which of your neighbours is a mid-list novelist and which is an accountant for an eco-trust.

Music is different. It wafts down alleyways and across parks, catches your ear as you pass by a coach house practice space, and greets you on sidewalks and plazas. We know who the musicians in our neighbourhood are. When I lived a few blocks away from where I do now, there was a jazz singer across the alley who’d have regular jams in her apartment. Sometimes, I see people I know congregating in the Napier Greenway as part of one band or another. And I always enjoyed hearing my neighbours’ sons practicing as I walked home.

As it turns out, Rowan and Trevor Whitridge have been accomplished professional musicians for a number of years now. They were kind enough to talk to me about their music and what they love about this neighbourhood a few days ago.

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You can find out what Trevor and Rowan are up to, along with their upcoming gigs, on their website: The Whitridge Brothers

Here are a few of the places where they play:

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Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew’s Wesley

VSO School of Music: The Big Band

Capilano University

And you can find out more about the community book exchanges Rowan mentioned in this article.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Graham Anderson

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I don’t do weekly grocery shops, as I might if I lived in the suburbs. Living near Commercial Drive, I have the luxury of shopping daily (or nearly so), making decisions about what I have for dinner based on what looks best at the markets.

Our primary grocery store is East End Food Co-op. We can get most of the staples and ingredients we need there, while supporting a co-operative business that has great labour standards and keeps its profits in the community. They focus on fair trade, local, and organic products as much as possible, while providing as wide a variety of quality products as they can.

We don’t buy everything there, but it’s fair to say we do the bulk of our shopping there. I especially love that they’ve introduced us to so much great produce from BC farmers, including heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables I haven’t seen elsewhere.

On Saturday, the City of Vancouver declared East End Food Co-op Day and there was a celebration in front of the store, including cake and Ethical Bean coffee. It was an extra-special celebration, because it’s the Co-op’s 40th anniversary this year. If that weren’t enough, it was also Co-op Week.

I put one of the Co-op’s Board Members on the spot, asking for an impromptu G-W Portraits interview, and Graham Anderson was gracious enough to agree. Here’s what he had to say about Grandview-Woodland, East End Food Co-op, and Saturday’s celebration:

G-W Portraits: Andrea Smith

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Vancouver has a reputation as a bike-friendly city, but cycling culture itself has a long way to go before it becomes equally accessible to everyone.

That’s why Andrea Smith and Lucas Gallagher’s shop, Sidesaddle, is such a promising addition to the city. A “women-focused, everyone welcome” bike shop, Sidesaddle caters to one of the fastest growing sectors of the bike-riding market, while striving to make cycling more approachable for everyone. Spaces like these are the next step in expanding cycling culture.

Yesterday, I spoke to Andrea about the shop, its mission, what she loves about Grandview-Woodland, and Bike to Work week.

You can hear more from Andrea in her PechaKucha Vancouver presentation.

Or, stop in at the shop. Andrea’s pal Rudy might just be the city’s cutest greeter.
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Bike to Work Week’s fall edition takes place from October 26th through November 1st this year. Sign up, log your kilometers, and visit celebration stations around the city. There are mounds of prizes and a number of intangible rewards, too.

Register here: Bike to Work Week

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Josie Boyce

Sunflowers

Yesterday, local writer and artist Josie Boyce was my guest for the G-W Portraits series. She’s a long-time resident of the Commercial Drive area and a veteran of Vancouver’s writing, performing, visual arts, and film circles.

Josie spoke about her work, what she loves about this neighbourhood, and how she builds community here.

Here’s a link to Josie’s favourite hangout on the Drive: The Storm Crow Tavern, home of Patton Oswalt’s Sadness Bowl and some excellent beer.

And here’s a link to the Femme City Choir. If you’re planning on seeing them perform this year, buy your tickets early – their shows sell out.

Josie will be reading from her in-progress memoir and other works next week:

All My Empty Dresses: Memories of a Strawgirl
Spartacus Books
3378 Findlay Street, Vancouver
Tuesday, October 13th
7:00 p.m.

You can find Josie on The Josie Pages or on Facebook.