• Oct31

    Berlin Brandenburg Gate c Stiftung Berliner Mauer
    [Berlin Brandenburg Gate ©Stiftung Berliner Mauer]

    A lot of exciting activities are on the horizon for both Berlin and Vienna in the coming year as each European capital celebrates a milestone in its history.

    Fall of The Wall

    For over 28 years, East and West Berlin were divided by an almost insurmountable wall, dividing families and friends while bringing much pain and suffering to the city. At least 136 people lost their lives at the Berlin Wall, mostly during attempts to flee from East to West.

    The construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961 led to the partitioning of East and West Germany and West Berlin’s encirclement by the Wall. Following an escalation of protests at the end of the 1980’s, the border crossings were opened on November 9, 1989.

    Millions celebrated across the city: Berliners from East and West and visitors from around the globe joyously embraced one another. There was much celebration on November 9, 1989, generating a feeling of euphoria as the majority of border posts disappeared after the fall of the Wall.

    East Side Gallery, Berlin
    [East Side Gallery ©Marc Darchinger]

    As the Wall fell on that historic day, photos of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate traveled around the world and became indelible symbols of regained freedom. The peaceful revolution had triumphed and reunited the people of Germany.

    Berlin has changed dramatically since the fall of the Wall and German reunification: the two halves of the city have once again merged as one, historic buildings have been restored, and entire new districts and magnificent buildings have emerged.

    Autumn 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, along with a full cultural program and Lichtgrenze, a light installation along the former wall’s path in the heart of Berlin.

    Light Project Visualisierung BBT ©Kulturprojekte Berlin
    [Light Project Visualisierung BBT ©Kulturprojekte Berlin]

    Created from illuminated balloons, Lichtgrenze will form a highlight of the festivities from November 7 to 9, tracing the former division of the city. Hundreds of thousands of Berliners and city visitors are expected to visit, both to admire and contemplate the huge former city division.

    To honour the major anniversary, a series of special events and museum exhibitions are planned throughout the city, focusing on the division of Germany and Berlin, the Cold War, and the peaceful revolution leading to reunification.

    Featured highlights include a GPS-guided walking tour on the trail of the Berlin Wall, guided or self-guided bicycle tours on the Wall path, visits to underground Berlin, former watch towers, Wall memorials, The GDR Museum, or a drive into the East of the city in an original GDR Trabant.

    25h Bikini Berlin Hotel
    [25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin Jungle M Room]

    A few major exhibits (and a new Spy Museum!) are part of the cultural agenda:

    Berlin Spy Museum
    Espionage has been the subject of many movies and books set in Berlin. Now the city is finally getting a museum that focuses on the mysteries of agents, double agents, betrayals, heroes, their stories, and the tools they used. The Berlin Spy Museum will feature approximately 21,500 square feet of exhibition space. One of the more well-known pieces on display will be the famous German coding machine “Enigma” from World War II, used to encipher and decipher secret messages. The exhibition will unveil the mysteries of intelligence services and espionage in the East and the West with a focus on Berlin during WWII and the Cold War.

    Botticelli in Berlin
    [Botticelli; photo ©Gemäldegalerie]

    The Botticelli Renaissance
    In Berlin’s Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie), a major exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance will explore how Botticelli – like no other artist – inspired the Modernist period and present-day art. Over 100 masterpieces of European art on loan from the world’s great collections have been assembled to chart the process by which original Botticellis have been transformed into “pictures”. The exhibition is curated in cooperation with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

    Exhibition on History of Homosexuality
    In cooperation with Berlin’s Gay Museum (Schwules Museum), the German National History Museum is planning an interdisciplinary exhibition on gay history, politics, culture, and art. The exhibition aims to contribute to a social recognition that goes beyond tolerance. It will also demonstrate what political contributions the homosexual emancipation movement has made toward the development of a democratic civil society in which everyone is accorded equal rights and equal opportunities.

    Maccabi games group photo by Rafael Herlich
    [Maccabi games photo by Rafael Herlich]

    For the first time in its history, the European Maccabi Games, the European Jewish sports competition, will be held in Berlin. The organizers anticipate 2,000 athletes who will compete in 24 disciplines at Berlin’s Olympiapark. The Games were first held in Prague in 1929, the following year in Antwerp. After World War II and the persecution of the Jews, the Games returned to Europe in 1959, held in Copenhagen. The international Maccabi Games are held every four years in Israel.

    View of the Ringstrasse Parliament
    [View of the Ringstrasse Parliament]

    Vienna Ringstrasse at 150

    The city of Vienna was a construction site for decades until May 1, 1865, when Emperor Franz Joseph officially opened Vienna’s Ringstrasse, lined with beautiful buildings and a series of parks and monuments. 150 years later, the Austrian capital will mark the showpiece boulevard’s anniversary with numerous events and exhibitions.

    From November 17 to 23, Vienna Art Week will transform the nation’s capital into a meeting point for art fans and experts on the international art scene, with a program featuring exhibition openings, tours of special exhibitions, installations, talks, panel discussions, and performances. Initiated by the Dorotheum auction house and designed by Art Cluster Vienna, this major event is a joint initiative by various art institutions, museums, artists, and collectors.

    Visitors to Vienna can pick and choose from over 430 different accommodations (approximately 63,000 beds in total) from upmarket traditional establishments and contemporary design hotels to low-budget B&B’s.

    Wiener Staatsoper
    [Wiener Staatsoper]

    Beginning next month, the ÖBB’s flagship high-speed railjet trains will link the Hauptbahnhof and Prague. This new service cuts travel time by half an hour, to 4 hours 10 minutes. A direct link to Vienna International Airport will also open to passengers in December. All of the platforms and rails are scheduled for completion in December 2015 when the station becomes fully operational and welcomes the first inbound service running along the western mainline.

    The new ultra-modern Hauptbahnhof is set to be one of Europe’s key transport hubs with 145,000 passengers and 1,000 trains passing through every day.

    View of Heldenplatz and Museums
    [View of Heldenplatz and museums]

    Vienna will also host several major art exhibitions, including:

    Joan Miró/Albertina/Albertina Museum
    Famed for his highly imaginative works, Joan Miró is one of the most popular artists of the 20th century. The Albertina will devote a comprehensive review to the Catalan artist with around 100 paintings, sketches, and other artifacts that shine the light on the celebrated surrealist’s poetic qualities through January 11, 2015.

    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: The Path to Modernism/Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien
    Currently on display through January 25, 2015 is the first full retrospective of the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Comprised of works loaned by collections around the globe, the exhibition will cast light on the sheer variety of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work and his extraordinary talent for observation, as seen in his paintings, works on paper, lithographs, and posters.

    Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus)
    [Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus)]

    Follow the Vienna Tourist Board on Twitter for updates and news. All Vienna photos ©WienTourismus/Christian Stemper.

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  • Oct31

    Dead Frog Commander Imperial Stout

    After cellaring our bottle of 2014 Dead Frog Commander Imperial Stout a good half year in a dark corner of our cupboard, we recently opened it over dinner, and discovered dark caramel, molasses, and star anise at the nose with tastes of chocolate and scotch in this seasonal sweet brew.

    Last weekend’s second and third-place Stout winner at the BC Craft Beer Awards for Commander’s 2013 and 2014 editions respectively, this rich, complex Imperial stout pairs nicely with dark chocolate as well as a good old-fashioned roast with seasoned potatoes and veggies.

    Brewmaster Tony Dewald added bourbon and a mixture of American and French white oak chips for greater complexity derived from barrel aging.

    Dead Frog’s unpasteurized and preservative-­free, limited-release 2014 Commander Imperial Stout is available in 650ml bottles (if you can still find them!) at $6.99. Best to pick up a few bottles and allow them to age for six months or more to arrive at the beer’s optimal complexity. We welcome the cold weather with open arms when it comes to enjoying rich brews such as this one!

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  • Oct30

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-5 El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-1

    El Naturalista’s well-known and loved Yggdrasil boot makes a return this fall with pretty Nordic Tree of Life-inspired detailing. The word Yggdrasil relates to the Old Norse Yggdrasill, an immense ash tree considered very holy. Other meanings of the word point to Odin’s horse (drasill means “horse”; Yggr is one of Odin’s many names).

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot

    If you’re not familiar with the Spanish line of fashionable, comfortable, colourful shoes, they use vegetable-tanned leathers as well as natural and recycled products in all their lines. El Naturalista was born in La Rioja, a fertile and prosperous area with a well known footwear tradition.

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-6
    [Yggdrasil's natural bamboo lining]

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-3

    The Yggdrasil is lined with 100% natural bamboo, offering breathability, absorption, and natural antibacterial properties. The familiar Yggdrasil recycled rubber heel and outsole is super comfy and easy to wear.

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-4

    The insole is both contoured, cushioned, and removable, while the recycled rubber outsole is both environmentally friendly and shock absorbing for added comfort and traction.

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-8 El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-9

    There’s a short zipper on the inner part of each boot for easy access. I’ve been tucking jeans into these boots, so having the zipper to readjust the hem is handy. I also like the Western style coupled with contrast-stitched florets front and back giving the boots a unique, feminine touch.

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-7 El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-10

    This boot will go great with skirts and tights as well as leggings with shorter dresses. One word about the bamboo lining: while 100% natural, it made easy friends with some of my cotton black socks, so if you need to take the boots off at a dinner party, consider packing a small lint roller in your bag.

    Yggdrasil colours

    The Yggdrasil comes in Bosque (forest green), Land (camel), Ocean (blue), Rioja (deep red), Wood, and black.

    Yggdrasil colours

    El Naturalista gives back to its global community by teaming up with 1% for the Planet as well as its own Atauchi Project, supporting abandoned and disabled children in Peru. Through Atauchi, El Naturalista donates one euro from every pair of their Nasca shoe line sold; the Spanish government matches each euro on a 20-to-1 basis.

    El Naturalista Yggdrasil boot-1

    One of the latest boots in the Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, the Yggdrasil retails for CDN $369 and is available online or at Searle’s Shoes in Courtenay and at Heart’s Content in Victoria, BC.

    Disclaimer: El Naturalista sent me a pair of Yggdrasil boots to test drive for this feature.

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  • Oct30

    Sandes of Time B&B, my base for exploring Mt. Hood Territory

    Sandes of Time B&B-8 Sandes of Time B&B-9 Sandes of Time B&B-5

    Sandes of Time B&B, a historic home located in the Milwaukie suburb of SE Portland (built from 1904 to 1907), has been fully restored and renovated to include four guest rooms/suites.

    Sandes of Time B&B-6 Sandes of Time B&B-11 Sandes of Time B&B-12 Sandes of Time B&B-7

    With 13 fireplaces throughout the B&B that can be heated to a comfortable level in each room, owners Al and Terry Sande have created a very cozy, relaxing environment for guests.

    Sandes of Time B&B-1 Sandes of Time B&B-2 Sandes of Time BB-3 Sandes of Time B&B-4

    Both guest rooms and common areas are tastefully decorated with period antiques and furnishings, lighting, and a touch of love by Terry. I was impressed by how each piece of furniture seems to accommodate its space so well. Continue reading »

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  • Oct29

    Ponzi Vineyards/Pinot noir production
    [Ponzi Vineyards/Pinot noir production]

    It’s harvest time in Oregon’s Washington County! The Pinot noir grapes have had a spectacular summer, with long, hot days, and a fruitful bounty to follow.

    I visited four wineries on a recent trip to the area: Ponzi Vineyards, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Ribera Vineyards, and Villa Catalana Cellars, each with their own stories to tell and atmosphere to soak up.

    Washington County

    Ponzi Vineyards

    Ponzi Vineyards is a second-generation family winery, started by husband and wife team Nancy and Dick Ponzi in 1970. Their three kids took over the winery in 1993 (one has since retired).

    Their youngest daughter is the current winemaker. Ponzi has three locations: Beaverton, Dundee, and Sherwood, the latter being the newest location, opened in summer 2013.

    Ponzi Vineyards

    Pinot Gris is the vineyard’s signature white ($17/bottle). Eight years into the company, the owners saw a need to produce a white wine to compliment the Pinot noirs, thus the Pinot Gris was begun in 1981. This is a light, food-friendly wine.

    I sampled the Arneis 2013 ($50/bottle); the fairly rare Arneis grape originates in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Only five or six American wine producers grow it, and the grape was brought back from near-extinction by the Currado family (owners of Vietti Winery).

    Ponzi produces 10-12 wines annually, three of which are Pinot noirs. The three prominent grapes onsite are Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Chardonnay. Ponzi is a LIVE-certified winery (Low Input Viticulture and Enology).

    Organic fertilizers are used, and sulfur in limited quantities, only when absolutely necessary in order to preserve the winery’s 130 acres of grapes.

    Ponzi Vineyards/Pinot noir production

    Their sleek four-level gravity-flow-assisted winemaking facility was booming on the morning of my visit, with freshly-harvested Pinot noir grapes being fermented below.

    I sampled two Pinot noirs: a 2012 Tavola ($25/bottle), and a 2012 Ponzi Pinot noir ($40/bottle). While the Tavola is an ‘everyday’ fruit-forward pinot meant to be enjoyed as a table wine, the Ponzi contains darker fruit notes, produced in the winery’s classic style. Considered the signature Pinot, it has a bit more pepper and spice, and would be well paired with lamb or roast.

    Ponzi Vineyards is located at 19500 SW Mountain Home Road in Sherwood.

    Cooper Mountain Vineyards tasting room

    Cooper Mountain Vineyards was started in 1985, its first vintage released two years later. Nine and a half acres of ‘Old Vines’ are grown at the property, with a total acreage of 123 (the winery produces wines using grapes from several local wine makers).

    Cooper Mountain has the distinction of being the only winery to produce Tocai Friulano ($22/bottle), a grape found in the Northeastern part of Italy. Part of the Sauvignon blanc family, the Friulano’s aged in stainless steel and imparts tropical fruit and lemon flavours.

    Grown right on the property, the ‘Old Vines’ Chardonnay ($30/bottle) is aged seven months in French oak, just enough to gain that lovely vanilla aroma, but avoiding the heavily buttery quality. This one’s a bit more crisp.

    Newly-released Cooper Mountain Pinot noir 2012 ($28/bottle) benefits from that year’s perfect summer; dark fruits and blueberries are the primary flavours I tasted when sampling this enjoyable Pinot.

    Cooper Mountain grows grapes using the bio-dynamic process, evident while tasting Cooper Mountain’s organic, sulfite-free Pinot noir ‘Life’ ($40/bottle). This one’s got a nice spice, with dark red fruits prominent on the palate.

    The winery uses a more complex selection of grapes from three vineyards in a higher elevation to produce its Pinot noir ‘Mountain Terroir’ ($50/bottle). This one’s got a great earthy quality to it, with dark cherry and spice notes adding to a spicy vanilla aroma on the nose.

    Cooper Mountain Winery is located at 20121 SW Leonardo Lane in Beaverton.

    The drive around these parts is very scenic, with gentle slopes, farms, and seasonal colour — worth taking the time to savour, much like the area’s wines.

    Mt. Hood Territory

    Ribera Vineyards tasting room

    Darrel and Molly Roby began Ribera Vineyards in 2000, its first vintage produced four years later (with a ‘whopping’ 80 cases of Pinot gris, Pinot noir, and Chardonnay, according to Molly).

    The small vineyard now produces 1,200 cases annually, choosing to focus on Southern Oregon grapes, the majority of them Syrah.

    The winery’s 2013 Rose was chosen as one of Oregon’s 50 Best Wines recently by Portland Monthly. Ribera self-distributes their wines, working out a winery facility along with several other regional wine makers.

    The 2012 Molly’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($18/bottle) is neutral-barrel fermented for 11 months, allowing the citrusy/pear flavour to shine through.

    2012 Confluence ($22/bottle) contains four grapes (Mourverde, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise), the latter being a somewhat obscure French grape used a lot to blend wines. This fuller-bodied wine is a great alternative to the region’s Pinot-centric products. I tasted red and black berries on the palate, finding this Rhone-style wine a juicy, enjoyable sipper.

    The 2012 Stormy Morning Vineyard Pinot noir ($25/bottle) has a slightly tart flavour coming from the cranberry flavour, along with a hint of spice from the dark fruit. Strawberry is also prevalent on the palate.

    Ribera Vineyards tasting room-1

    Ribera’s sleek new tasting room is located on the Farmlandia Farm Loop Trail at 21775 SW Ribera Lane in West Linn; visit their site for tasting hours (on weekends; otherwise by appointment).

    Villa Catalana Cellars

    The tasting room at Villa Catalana Cellars is in the heart of a conservatory filled with rare botanicals and wrought iron tables. I wasn’t expecting the door to open to lead to such a unique space, but even in the rainy October weather, the light in here made me forget the pitter-patter outside.

    Villa Catalana Cellars

    The property is beautiful, inspired by 12th century Spanish Romanesque churches. Owner Burl Mostul created moulds for columns, poured in concrete, pressure-washed them the next day to give them an aged appearance, mortared the capitals onto the top and poured concrete over them so they’re solid.

    Villa Catalana Cellars

    12th century Spain meets modern-day Oregon thus.

    Burl and his wife have tried to keep the architectural style as consistent as possible throughout the property, starting the project in 2009, and taking just over a year to build the home and arches. The gardens are a continual work of progress.

    Villa Catalana Cellars

    Rare Plant Research plays a huge role here. Burl started back in 1987 as a hobby, growing tropical plants new to science. Post 9/11, it got harder to move plants between countries, so he focused on new garden plants, getting seeds and sourcing plants from New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Ecuador, China, and Thailand.

    Burl sought out plants that would be interesting to gardeners, and began to develop hybrids. The project has since evolved into a wholesale nursery that sees a huge number of customers come through his winery during their first open nursery of the season.

    The majority of the plants are suitable to tropical deciduous forest or dessert climates.

    Villa Catalana Cellars

    As far as the winery goes, Pinot noir is the focus here. Villa Catalana looks for small vineyards that have exceptional soil for a particular grape, in 2012’s case, Earl’s Vineyard (near Molalla), containing terroir that makes for a unique Pinot noir, a bit softer than the typical Oregon Pinots.

    The tasting room is open from 1-4 pm on Saturdays and is located at 11900 S. Criteser Road in Oregon City.

    Located 30 minutes south of Portland between Oregon City and Canby in Beaver Creek Valley, Villa Catalana Cellars is part of the self-guided Canby Area Farm Loop.

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  • Oct28

    DUDOC banner

    The Dutch Urban Design and Development Centre (DUDOC) will open in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon, October 30, aiming to showcase the most innovative and sustainable designs from the Netherlands, ranging from heating and lighting systems to shoes and coffee machines.

    In addition to being a platform for Dutch companies to promote their products for sustainable development in downtown Vancouver, DUDOC will also serve as a forum for exchanging ideas and designs to promote best-of-class solutions for builders and city planners in both continents.

    Jaga Play radiator Jaga Play radiator
    [Jaga's cool and colourful Play radiator]

    Among the partners showcasing their products are Connex, which employs the concept of bio mimicry to create products that fit a circular economy and Jaga, which merges innovation and art in its heating and cooling systems.

    Strietman ES3 espresso machine
    [Wouter Strietman's ES3 espresso machine]

    Dutch design products such as the Tulpi chair and Wouter Strietman’s espresso machine complete the ambiance for guests to wonder in for a coffee and browse through the collection of Dutch architectural and city building books.

    DUDOC is the brainchild of Walas Concepts, a Dutch-Canadian urban design company specializing in revitalizing neighbourhoods by taking into account the existing essence of the area, enhancing the creative core, and listening to the locals.

    MilkShell lampshade by Gilbert de Rooij
    [Upcycled MilkShell lampshade by Gilbert de Rooij]

    Walas is known for fostering the creative class and growing the local economic by encouraging micro-businesses. Walas Concepts brought the concept of DUDOC forward to the Consul General of the Netherlands, who has collaborated to make it a reality.

    “I’ve been working in both countries for several years as an urban designer and I’ve always been struck by the compatibility in culture and sensibility,” states Gerben van Straaten. “Netherlands has been a hotbed of sustainable innovation for a number of years and Canada is a country open to new ideas and eager to exchange and implement ideas around green design.”

    DUDOC has taken over the former Buschlen Mowatt Gallery space at 1445 Georgia Street and is conscious of carrying on the legacy of excellence in showcasing emerging talent. The vision for DUDOC is to become a centre for the exchange of ideas and collaboration between designers and developers to create a new vision of vitality for the metropolitan Vancouver area.

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  • Oct28

    McMenamins Grand Lodge-6

    My home base for exploring Oregon’s Washington County was McMenamins Grand Lodge, a former Masonic & Eastern Star Home built in 1922, converted into 77 guest rooms, restaurants, bars, and grounds for relaxation.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge/Sam Hughes room McMenamins Grand Lodge/Sam Hughes room

    Once settled into my colourful guest room on the second floor emblazoned with flourishing text describing the life and times of former resident Sam Hughes, I unpacked and headed straight down the hall for a rejuvenating shower.

    All rooms contain porcelain sinks, a mirror, and a place to hang your towel; the bathrooms are marble-finished with tiny checkerboard tiles. Throw on a bathrobe and enjoy an Old World bathing experience.

    McMenamins Japanese style soaking pool

    The year-round outdoor heated Japanese-style soaking pool is available for guests ($5 for non-guests per use). Nice and steamy in the evenings!

    McMenamins Grand Lodge-4

    There’s also a few King suites with ensuite bathroom, sitting room, and fireplace at the Grand, if you’re looking for more privacy. As busy as the hotel gets, I found myself having the bathroom all to myself every time I swiped my room card there.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge-8

    It’s hard to tell what surprises lurk behind the doors of some of these rooms, particularly when they’re titled Bob Marley, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Dylan.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge-7

    I enjoyed wandering the halls, admiring the artistic touches that have come to define the McMenamins family of lodging, pubs, and restaurants in the area.

    While the Ironwork Grill offers local and regional cuisine, Pat’s Corner, an indoor/outdoor spot for lunch and dinner, features a cobblestone floor and crackling fire.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge/Pat's Corner
    [Hanging out on a lazy Sunday afternoon at Pat's Corner]

    McMenamins Grand Lodge/Pat's Corner ceiling

    Check out the vaulted ceiling indoors filled with Mike and Brian McMenamin’s vintage album cover collection! There’s also live music on weekends and special events (e.g. specialized tours, holiday parties).

    McMenamins' Brewer Ron Wolf with Mike and Brian McMenamin
    [Brewer Ron Wolf with Mike and Brian McMenamin]

    If you’re into craft beer, this is the place to be: McMenamins is considered one of Oregon’s beer pioneers. In fact, nearly 29 years ago to the day, the first brew was tapped at Oregon’s first brew pub, the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House. McMenamins’ first brewer Ron Wolf produced the beer, together with brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin.

    Little did they know on that fateful day that Ruby, Hammerhead, and Terminator Stout would soon follow. They’ve now well over 60 brewpubs around the state. The inaugural brew’s ingredients are proudly displayed on Hillsdale’s pub wall today.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge/Ironwork Grill
    [Ironwork Grill]

    A visit to one of Grand Lodge’s several bars currently features Black Widow Porter, a smooth drinker brewed annually since 1991 using black and roast malts with hints of caramel and licorice. It pairs great with a veggie burger or a steak.

    A 10-hole disc golf course, Ruby’s Spa, and a gift shop complete the picture.

    If you’re travelling with pets, the Grand Lodge will allow them to stay in the room for an added $15 per day, per pet. Read the pet policy here.

    McMenamins Grand Lodge/one of many sitting areas

    McMenamins Grand Lodge is located at 3505 Pacific Avenue in Forest Grove, Oregon. I was a guest of the hotel during my recent visit.

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  • Oct27

    Beatrice Zeilinger, Anna Hagan, Meaghan Chenosky
    [Beatrice Zeilinger, Anna Hagan, Meaghan Chenosky]

    American playwright Edward Albee wrote Three Tall Women in the 1990’s, winning a 1994 Pulitzer prize for Drama (his third), among other awards. According to Albee, the play, divided into two parts, is based on his adoptive mother but is also a discussion into the meaning of life.

    The first act takes place inside a woman’s bedroom with two people visiting: her caregiver, a woman in her fifties, and her lawyer’s assistant, a woman in her twenties. The visitors question the value of life when at the end all that is left is a mind affected by dementia—angry, sad, and unable to keep facts straight. 

    Beatrice Zeilinger, Meaghan Chenosky, Anna Hagan
    [Beatrice Zeilinger, Meaghan Chenosky, Anna Hagan]

    The second act sees the three women presiding over the bed that holds the elderly woman from the first act, who is now in a coma nearing death. The women are representative of the dying woman in her 20’s, 50’s, and 70’s. The three discuss the merits of their collective life. The youngest of the three expresses dismay that she settled for a loveless marriage. The middle-aged woman defends her actions, and the elderly woman expresses acceptance of her life. The play ends with a bold statement about the happiest moment in the now-elderly woman’s life. 

    The play is well acted by all three women: Anna Hagan, Beatrice Zeilinger, and Meaghan Chenosky. Three Tall Women focuses on dialogue — this production’s is crisp, clear, and delivered with conviction. Unintentional fumbling with bits of the dialogue was professionally incorporated as part of the speech habit of the characters.

    Anna Hagan, Meaghan Chenosky, Beatrice Zeilinger
    [Anna Hagan, Meaghan Chenosky, Beatrice Zeilinger]

    Anna Hagan is convincing in her depiction of an aging woman frustrated with her loosening grasp on life. Beatrice Zeilinger depicts the midlife of a woman angry at her past and frustrated with where she is at present. Chenosky dances superbly between the arrogance and the naivety of the young. There is another character with no dialogue, played by Matt Rezneck, representing the dying woman’s estranged son.

    Three Tall Women is directed by Terrence Kelly and is presented by Western Gold Theatre, a Vancouver-based company whose aim is to foster roles and participation of seniors in theatre, including mentoring young actors. Three Tall Women leaves much for the audience to think about and ponder about their own lives and this production delivers that message superbly.  

    Three Tall Women continues at the PAL Studio Theatre in Coal Harbour through November 9.

    Photos by Tim Matheson.

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  • Oct27

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-4

    Craft beer lovers filled East Vancouver’s Croatian Cultural Centre last Saturday for the Fifth Annual BC Beer Awards, hosted again this year by CBC’s Stephen Quinn.

    Awards host CBC's Stephen Quinn

    55 awards were presented in the following 21 categories:

    Light Lager (22 entries)
    1st Place: Turning Point Brewing Company ‐ Stanley Park Noble Pilsner
    2nd Place: OK Springs Okanagan Spring -­ 1516
3rd Place: Hoyne Brewing Co. -­ Helios – Dortmunder Golden Lager
    Honourable Mention: Turning Point Brewing Company

    Pilsner (22 entries)
    1st Place: Steamworks Brewery -­ Steamworks Pilsner
    2nd Place: Barley Station Brew Pub -­ Canoe Creek Pilsner
    3rd Place: Russell Brewing Co. -­ Lager 22

    Special Lager (17 entries)
    1st Place: Tree Brewing Co. -­ Captivator Doppelbock
    2nd Place: Pacific Western Brewing Pacific Schwarzbock
    3rd Place: Persephone Brewing Co. -­ Black Lager

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-6

    Hybrids (37 entries)
1st Place: Steamworks Brewpub – Steamworks Brewpub Kolsch
    2nd Place: Phillips Brewing Co. -­ Slipstream Ale
3rd Place: R&B Brewing Company -­ Sun God Wheat Ale

    UK Ales (40 entries)
1st Place: Tin Whistle Brewing Co. -­ Stag Apple Scotch Ale
    2nd Place: Bowen Island Brewing -­ Snug Cove ESB

    3rd Place: Moon Under Water Brewery -­ Wee Woody

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-1 5th Annual BC Beer Awards-3

    North American Ales (48 entries)
    1st Place: Main St. Brewing Co. -­ Main Street Sessional IPA
    2nd Place: Phillips Brewing Co. – ­Coulrophobia IRA
3rd Place: Rossland Beer Co. -­ Paydirt Pale Ale

    German Wheat/Rye (10 entries)
    1st Place: Moon Under Water Brewery -­This Is Hefeweizen

    2nd Place: Moon Under Water Brewery -­ Moon Berliner Style -­ Weisse
    3rd Place: Big Ridge Brewing Co. -­ Big Ridge Dunkleweizen

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-2 5th Annual BC Beer Awards-5

    Belgian/French (45 entries)
    1st Place: Driftwood Brewing Company -­ White Bark Witbier
2nd Place: Dageraad Brewing -­ De Witte

    3rd Place: Four Winds Brewing Company -­ Juxtapose Brett IPA
    Honourable Mention: Brassneck Brewery -­ Stockholm Syndrome

    Browns and Porters (30 entries)
    1st Place: Yellow Dog Brewing Co -­ Shake A Paw Smoked Brown Porter
    2nd Place: Powell Street Brewing Co. -­ Dive Bomb Porter
3rd Place: Lighthouse Brewing Company -­ Road Trip Fresh Hopped Dark Ale

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-8
    [Dead Frog Brewing takes 2nd and 3rd place for Stouts]

    Stouts (24 entries)
    1st Place: Persephone Brewing Co. -­ Dry Irish Stout
2nd Place: Dead Frog Brewing Co. -­ Commander Imperial Stout (2013)
    3rd Place: Dead Frog Brewing Co. -­ Commander Imperial Stout (2014)

    Vegetable/Spice Beer (27 entries)
    1st Place: Parallel 49 Brewing Co. -­ Lost Souls
2nd Place: Howe Sound Brewing -­ Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale

    3rd Place: Fuggles & Warlock Craftwerks -­ Bean Me Up Espresso Milk Stout

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-9
    [Granville Island Brewing takes 1st in Specialty Beer category]

    Specialty Beer (29 entries)
    1st Place: Granville Island Brewing -­ Lost In The Barrels
    2nd Place: Moon Under Water Brewery -­ Year 2
3rd Place: Parallel 49 Brewing Co. -­ Salty Scot

    Smoke/Wood (16 entries)
    1st Place: Central City Brewers and Distillers -­ Thor’s Hammer Barrel Aged
    2nd Place: Parallel 49 Brewing Co. -­ Braggot

    3rd Place: Brassneck Brewery -­ Inertia II

    Strong (16 entries)
    1st Place: Steamworks Brewery -­ Steamworks Blitzen
2nd Place: Townsite Brewing Co. -­ Biere D’Hiver

    3rd Place: Howe Sound Brewing -­ Wooly Bugger Barley Wine

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-10
    [Driftwood Brewing accepts 1st place for Flanders Red]

    Fruit and Sours (24 entries)
    1st Place: Driftwood Brewing Company -­ Bird Of Prey – Flanders Red
    2nd Place: Parallel 49 Brewing Co. -­ Schwarzwald
3rd Place: Brassneck Brewery -­ Peach Changeling

    North American IPA (44 entries)
    1st Place: High Mountain Brewing Co. -­ 5 Rings IPA

    2nd Place: Four Winds Brewing Company -­ Four Winds IPA
    3rd Place: Central City Brewers and Distillers -­ Red Racer IPA

    Imperial IPA (14 entries)
    1st Place: Brassneck Brewery -­ One Trick Pony

    2nd Place: Central City Brewers and Distillers -­ Red Racer Imperial IPA
    3rd Place: Bomber Brewing Co. -­ SuperPest

    5th Annual BC Beer Awards-11
    [Best of Show winners Yellow Dog Brewing Co]

    Best of Show (465 entries)
    Yellow Dog Brewing Co -­ Shake A Paw Smoked Brown Porter
    Honourable Mention: Steamworks – Blitzen

    The Dan Small Homebrew Award
    1st Place: Matt Anderson & Family – Anderson Estate IPA – Fresh Hopped
    2nd Place: Grayson Barke – Harvest Rye IPA
3rd Place: Brad Johnson -­ Squashmonster

    Brewers Challenge 2014 – Purl Cask
    1st Place: Bride Brewing

    CBC People’s Choice
    Four Winds – Sovereign Super Saison

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  • Oct24

    Sunrise movie still

    Each month, Melanie Friesen invites a distinguished guest to Vancity Theatre’s Cinema Salon, in order to present his/her favourite film. After the screening, both audience and speaker have the opportunity to engage over drinks and snacks in the Vancity lounge. This month’s film is F.W. Murnau’s 1927 film Sunrise.
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  • Oct23

    Skwachays Lodge Tour-2

    Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel has opened its doors to guests in the heart of Vancouver’s historic downtown. Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society, Skwachàys Lodge is an innovative approach to sustainable housing fusing cultural authenticity, business excellence, and community economic development.

    Skwachays Lodge Tour-1 Skwachays Lodge Tour-4

    Located at the crossroads of Vancouver’s Gastown and Chinatown neighbourhoods, the hotel’s architect preserved the century-old brick façade and designed a traditional northern longhouse to sit atop the heritage building.

    Skwachays Lodge Tour-22 Skwachays Lodge Tour-18

    The rooftop longhouse features a 40.5-foot story pole — the Dreamweaver — reaching into the Vancouver skyline. This newly-opened boutique hotel is an interior designer’s dream, with colourful, one-of-a-kind furnishings and artwork designed by six Aboriginal artists collaborating with six world-renowned local designers.

    Skwachays Lodge Tour-11 Skwachays Lodge Tour-3

    The artist and designer teams include Corrine Hunt and BBA Design Consultants; Clifton Fred and B+H CHIL Design; Lou-Anne Neel and Inside Design Studio; Sabina Hill and Mark Preston with MCM Interiors; Richard Shorty and Porada Design Group; and Jerry Whitehead with Portico Design Group.

    Skwachays Lodge Tour-6

    There’s also a rooftop First Nations sweat lodge and smudge room that will soon open to guests who, together with an elder, will partake in a traditional Aboriginal cultural experience.
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  • Oct21

    Kerry Sandomirsky, Michael Kopsa
    [Kerry Sandomirsky, Michael Kopsa]

    Loosely based on the true story of the son of a Tory politician who killed himself after being extensively bullied, Touchstone Theatre’s Late Company imagines what a restorative justice dinner held a year later might have looked like between the parents of a dead gay son, his chief tormentor, and that boy’s parents. 

    As the show opens, Debora and Michael are second-guessing themselves and fussing with the napkins. Tamara and Bill arrive, late, with teenaged son Curtis in tow. No one wants to eat except Bill, no one wants to talk except Deb, Tamara is determined that this dinner will prove she is a good mother, and Michael still can’t say any of the things he feels about his son. And Curtis is a mystery.


The script of the play and its premiere production are the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2013 Best Production and Audience Choice Award at SummerWorks, the 2013 Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition, the 2012 Enbridge playRites Award, and the 2012 Uprising National Playwriting Competition.
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  • Oct20

    Tea Sparrow tea

    Our friends at Tea Sparrow are prepping to bring the First Annual Tea Sparrow Tea-Off to Vancouver’s Heritage Hall on Sunday, October 26.
    Billed as a “tea party of sorts”, each tea has been jury-approved for quality and taste, specifically chosen for the Tea-Off by its members. Tea lovers will have the opportunity to try each of the teas, learn about Tea Sparrow’s unique scoring system, and score the teas!
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  • Oct17

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Luggage-10 Eagle Creek Pack-It Luggage-9
    [L to R: Eagle Creek's EC Adventure 4-Wheeled Upright 22, Pack-It On Board toiletry kit]

    As airlines continue to crack down on suitcase size, weight, and carry-on allowances, luggage companies are often faced with compensating quality and durability for weight. I’ve seen some of the current suitcases on the market begin to show signs of wear after only a few trips.

    Suitcases that used to be rugged and somewhat heftier have stood the test of time (I still have an Air Canada trolley suitcase that’s withstood numerous global destinations; unfortunately the bag’s no longer made).

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Luggage-22

    I was recently sent a couple of Eagle Creek products to test-drive: the EC Adventure 4-Wheeled Upright 22, and an accompanying Pack-It On Board toiletry kit. Eagle Creek’s known for their lifetime “No Matter What” warranty and stand by their products. They’ve also been in the business of selling durable, innovative luggage since 1975.

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Luggage-1

    Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of globe-trotting, carrying Eagle Creek and Jansport (another outdoor outfitters with a solid history of quality travel products) packs on my back.

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Luggage-18

    The EC Adventure’s loaded with great features, from four multi-directional wheels at the base to padded compression wings to keep your clothes secure and help against wrinkling. The first thing I noticed was its weight: the bag’s a mere 7 lbs. 13 oz. (3.54 kg). Considering the smooth-lifting handle, two-way locking zippers, and integrated wheel system, this is one pretty lightweight bag!
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  • Oct17

    Sean Ling photo by Makoto Hirata courtesy of Peggy Baker Dance Projects
    [Sean Ling photo by Makoto Hirata; courtesy of Peggy Baker Dance Projects]

    Vancouver’s favourite rule-breaker turns 31 with a dramatic new spin for the beloved Small Stage series as MovEnt with Music on Main present Dances for a Small Stage 31 as part of the 2014 Modulus Festival.

    This daringly different arrangement will synergize live dance and music, headlined by Canadian treasures – and sweethearts – composer John Oswald and choreographer Holly Small, in their first-ever joint performance on the West coast stage.

    Vanessa Goodman
    [Vanessa Goodman]

    “In a departure from our usual concept of five to seven-minute dance works, MovEnt has joined with musical counterpart, Music on Main for an evening integrating live music as well as dance,” says MovEnt Artistic Producer Julie-anne Saroyan. “This type of interwoven collaboration has experienced an unfortunate deterioration over the years, resulting from a hyper-reliance on pre- recorded sounds. I can’t think of two stronger leaders for this crucial renaissance than the grandparents of music and dance collaborations, John and Holly. These two inspired minds were mentors to me at York University, and have been a major influence on my philosophy towards movement and music.”

    Since its inception in 2002, Dances for a Small Stage has wowed audiences by tearing down formalities and creating intimate, raw scenarios in which to experience dance. The popular series is renowned for bringing unique and innovative contemporary dance, inclusive of all disciplines, to a rough–and–tumble cabaret setting.

    Karissa Barry photo by Yvonne Chew
    [Karissa Barry photo by Yvonne Chew]

    Oswald, who will be presenting a selection of his original compositions, will be joined by Small in an unprecedented opportunity to see these celebrated partners perform side by side. Sharing the signature Small Stage are dance artists Makaila Wallace (in a work choreographed by Karissa Barry), Vanessa Goodman, Stewart Iguidez, in addition to visiting Toronto dancers Sean Ling and Jessica Runge.

    Also on loan from Toronto is multi award-winning Cecilia String Quartet, internationally renowned for their innovative programming and expressive interplay. These dynamic young female musicians will perform two works – a Tchaikovsky score, String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Opus 11, and preLieu, a masterful composition by Oswald created in 1991 for the renowned Kronos Quartet.

    This three-show performance, curated by Saroyan, will feature the ever-endearing Billy Marchenski as emcee and maestro for the evening.

    Dances for a Small Stage 31
    Dates: October 23 to 25; doors at 7 pm, show at 8 pm
    Venue: Ukrainian Centre, 154 East 10th Avenue at Main Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: In advance online; limited cash-only tickets available at the door on performance nights.

    About MovEnt
    Founded in 2001, MovEnt is a Vancouver-based charitable non-profit dance society devoted to producing new contemporary dance work, supporting dance artists and developing an audience for contemporary dance. MovEnt produces dance that encourages high expectations and produces accessible, engaging art.

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