• Archives
  • Dec12


    Julia Pon, one of 400 Beauty Night volunteers

    Since 2000, over 500 Beauty Night Society volunteers have donated their time, expertise, and hearts to give more than 26,000 life makeovers to women living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    On December 18, dozens more life makeovers will get underway as this wonderful organization will celebrate its 12th anniversary. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Caroline MacGillivray on several occasions, including Beauty Night’s 10th anniversary party. It’s always a heart-warming experience to see what Caroline is doing for the DTES women and children who’ve had a rough patch in life.

    Beautiful Women. Photo by Ken Villeneuve
    [Photo by Ken Villeneuve for Blue Planet Green Living. Reproduced with permission]

    Beauty Night Society’s success is due to the tireless dedication and commitment of Caroline MacGillivray, who started the organization after an experience volunteering at a Downtown Eastside shelter in 2000.
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  • Dec11


    Logitech Ultra Thin Keyboard-4

    Perhaps you’ve got an iPad on your holiday wish list. Maybe like me, you’ve owned one for awhile and have a need for typing on the road (without the virtual keyboard). Either way, I decided it was time to check out an integrated keyboard cover and case.

    Logitech Ultra Thin Keyboard-3

    Through research (and looking for the nicely-designed ones), I came across Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in white. And while this product’s been on the market for awhile now, it’s been recently launched in white – and even more recently, in red. As well, I wanted to wait for the latest unveiling in the iPad series to make sure that any case I’d be reviewing would fit the most current iPad on the market.
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  • Dec5


    Food Talks Vancouver Volume 5/Richard Wolak

    Roughly once a month, Vancouver Foodster’s Richard Wolak organizes Food Talks, bringing together five speakers with a range of talent as wide and varied as Vancouver’s food palate; this month’s event was no exception.

    Food Talks Vancouver Volume 5-1 Food Talks Vancouver Volume 5-3 Food Talks Vancouver Volume 5/John Bishop and Daniel Frankel
    [Daniel Frankel gets a hug from restaurateur John Bishop]

    Inside a warm, holiday-themed Stanley Park Pavilion, guests were treated to beautifully-prepared appetizers leading up to the speakers inside an adjacent room filled with decorated seats that would suit a wedding reception! Talk about posh.
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  • Dec5


    Bah Humbug

    Victorian England and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) are together at last with Bah! Humbug! This show combines 20 musical numbers from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a stellar cast including Jay Brazeau, Margo Kane, and Jim Byrnes.

    Repurposed into a tale where Scrooge owns a pawn shop on Hastings Street, this imaginative all-ages production offers a bittersweet twist on a cherished classic that celebrates the transformative power of human redemption. A tale that’s over 150 years old, Dickens’ timeless story remains relevant today, especially in light of parallels between the economic disparities of Victorian London and Vancouver’s DTES.

    Bah! Humbug! will run for two performances on December 15th only, at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

    “Each year, the adaptation has different creative twists and turns as we continue to highlight vital issues affecting the DTES. Taking inspiration from Dickens, we’re proud to work in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre to benefit the development of a dynamic cultural program in our own community” says Michael Boucher, Director, Cultural Programs & Partnerships, SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs.

    Commissioned and co-produced by SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre, Bah! Humbug! benefits the Vancouver Community Arts Council, Vancouver’s Eastside, and the Heart of the City Festival.

    Bah Humbug

    Bah! Humbug! is directed by Max Reimer and stars award-winning actor Jay Brazeau as Ebenezer Scrooge, First Nations actor Margo Kane as the narrator, Juno-award winning musician and actor Jim Byrnes as Jacob Marley, and gospel and blues singer/actor Tom Pickett as Bob Cratchit. These Vancouver favourites will be joined by a cast of professional and DTES community actors. Musical performances are diverse and include pop, folk, blues, gospel and industrial music styles along with traditional seasonal favourites.

    “Our adaptation attempts to reflect Dickens’ sharp social commentary, without losing its warmth, while adding a local twist”, according to Terry Hunter, Executive Director of Vancouver Moving Theatre. This year’s show will include an audience sing-a-long, seasonal refreshments, and an organic turkey draw at each performance, sponsored by Save-on-Meats. This will definitely be a great community event to attend.

    Bah! Humbug!
    Date: December 15, 2 and 7:30 pm
    Venue: Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street
    Tickets: $20 adults; $10 students and seniors; purchase online or at the door one hour prior to showtime.

    Photos by David Cooper.

  • Dec4


    12bands poster

    On Friday, December 14, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel will once again host SHORE 104.3’s second annual 12 Bands of Christmas Food Drive. Vancouverites are invited to enjoy a full day of music and festivities as well the chance to support the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

    From 7 am to 7 pm, The Lobby Lounge at Fairmont Pacific Rim will showcase 12 hours of non-stop musical performances from some of Lower Mainland’s top talents.
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  • Dec3


    Settle in for a two and a half hour (including intermission) ride on the high seas. The Vancouver Opera and its Orchestra bring The Pirates of Penzance to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for four more performances through December 9. First performed at New York City’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in 1879, this is one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best loved productions.

    The absurd satire opens with a set containing ship sails, sea cliffs, and a treasure chest amid a blue sky. Text is shown on a screen above the stage to help decipher the songs and in many cases to hear the performers. As we’ve entered cold season, our performance included a lot of coughing Vancouverites.

    Charismatic Pirate King (Aaron St. Clair Nicholson) does a fine job in leading the Pirates of Penzance through their paces. He has a beautiful voice that I fondly recall in last year’s Roméo et Juliette (in the role of Roméo’s close friend, Mercutio).

    When the young maidens first appear on stage in act one, their off-white dresses perfectly complement the rocks in the foreground. Kudos to lighting designer Harry Frehner for lighting up the stage, especially in act two with dramatic night scenery complete with twinkling stars.
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  • Dec3


    Astoria/Columbia River Coffee Roaster

    Unwinding on the stormy Oregon coastal town of Astoria means diving into a good read, watching the ships pass along the Columbia River, heading into a local coffee house or brewpub, or a soothing massage.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Spa

    And that’s just what I did on a blustery Sunday afternoon last weekend. The Cannery Pier Spa offers everything from facials to complete massage packages.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel

    A whirlpool spa and Finnish sauna are also located here to complete the “ahhh” experience.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel

    I chose the “Walk on the Beach” package ($190), in honour of the previous morning’s rain-soaked walk out to Cannon Beach’s famed Haystack Rock.

    After a brief sauna session, I entered a cozy candlelit room for a Marine minerals foot therapy. The large foot-soaking tub contained Chinese jasmine bath salts with dark-coloured warm stones for a textural sensation on the bottom of my feet.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Spa

    As I slid under the warm towel layers on the massage table, Massage Therapist Leigh Oviatt started with a dry brush massage followed by a full body Dead sea salt polish with citrus essential oils. And following that, I was covered with shea butter coconut butter finishing cream, blended specially at the spa.

    Plastic and warm towels soon enveloped me, allowing all the soft goodness to work into my skin. After a quick shower ‘intermission’, it was back to the table for a one hour full body massage. By this time, I was nearly comatose and wondered how I’d ever get up from that table!

    The two and half hour session left me in a state of deep bliss. About halfway through the massage, the rain started to gain force, making it seem as though the table was set in the middle of a rain forest. Very romantic.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Spa

    I highly recommend an afternoon at Cannery Pier Spa. This treat restored my skin to baby smoothness, giving me a deep sleep that night.

    Visit the Cannery Pier Spa website to learn about the other treatments offered, ranging from quick chair massages and reflexology to a full day escape. The spa is located on the first floor of the Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria at 10 Basin Street.

    My Walk on the Beach package was courtesy of the Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa. Many thanks to Leigh for an amazing afternoon in your good company!

  • Nov30



    “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

    It’s a Wonderful Life is a charmer that encapsulates the season of giving. This classic Frank Capra film has become one of the best American films ever made and serves as a Christmas TV staple around the world. Theatrical productions based on the 1946 film have surfaced from all corners of the globe to recreate the magic that brought the Bailey family to life. The Arts Club Theatre has produced It’s a Wonderful Life for the last five years, and last night, I was honoured to watch its 200th show.

    The show’s beautiful scenery is enhanced through black and white footage from the original film, adding another layer of dimension to the stage. The scenes move slowly, adding a further element of romanticism to the production. There are several modular sets incorporating period furniture. And a lit Christmas tree to make things festive.

    Bob Frazer

    I’ve enjoyed watching Bob Frazer as Biff Lohman in Death of a Salesman, and both my husband and I were particularly captivated by his role in Bard on the Beach’s Richard III. Here he’s doing a fine job as the compassionate, big-hearted George Bailey.

    George has aspirations to design big buildings. We see him fresh out of high school, ready for to go to university, travel, and conquer the world. He’s filled with hope and makes his family proud.

    Brother Harry (Kyle Jespersen) is giddy with excitement to be entering the world through his older brother’s eyes. And as time goes on, one by one, George’s dreams begin to disappear as he’s left behind in his home town of Bedford Falls to help (and eventually take over) the family business when his father suffers a stroke. He’s sacrificed a lot to keep the townspeople happy through his efforts at the Bailey Building and Loan Association.

    Slumlord Henry Potter (Alec Willows, pulling his weight as a truly evil man) is ready to shut the Bailey business down at any cost but George stops him dead in his tracks.

    Bernard Cuffling
    [Bernard Cuffling]

    Enter one Angel Second Class, Clarence (Bernard Cuffling steals the show in this role), who’s been sent down to look after George in hope of getting his wings. Clarence helps George to see what life would be like if George hadn’t been born. And the tale does come to a happy ending, proving that nice guys don’t always finish last.

    Standout roles in this cast include Jennifer Lines playing Mary Bailey, the love of George’s life, Bernard Cuffling, who as mentioned above is an enjoyable, humourous angel to George Bailey’s bitter and depressed soul, and Bob Frazer in the lead role. Also watch newcomer Jordan Wessels (young George Bailey, All the Way Home) who together with his brother Aidan Wessels (young Harry Bailey, All the Way Home) join the family in this popular production.

    Jennifer Lines, Bob Frazer
    [Jennifer Lines, Bob Frazer]

    If you haven’t yet seen the film, it’s worth checking out. And then come watch this colourful production that brings the spirit of giving to life. This cast works very well together under the direction of Dean Paul Gibson, who took the spotlight at the end of last night’s show to mark the milestone performance.

    It’s a Wonderful Life continues through December 29 at the Granville Island Stage, 1585 Johnston Street in Vancouver.

    Photos courtesy of David Cooper.

  • Nov30


    Chongqing OceanWise Media Launch/Dr. John Nightingale, President & CEO, Vancouver Aquarium
    [Dr. John Nightingale, President & CEO, Vancouver Aquarium]

    The Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure they have the most current scientific information regarding sustainable seafood and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions. The options are highlighted on their menus and display cases with the Ocean Wise symbol, making it easier for consumers to make ocean-friendly seafood choices.

    Chongqing OceanWise Media Launch
    [Szechuan Chongqing Restaurant receives the Ocean Wise plaque]
    L to R: Kevin Huang; Executive Chef Robert Wong; Lisa Wong; Tara Teng, Miss World Canada 2012; Mike McDermid]

    And on Wednesday afternoon, Szechuan Chongqing became Canada’s first Chinese seafood restaurant to don the Ocean Wise symbol on its menu. Media were invited to the restaurant to meet Executive Chef Robert Wong, sample his fine seafood dishes, and learn about Ocean Wise’s sustainable seafood program.

    Chongqing OceanWise Media Launch/Chef Robert Wong preparing a sablefish
    [Chef Robert Wong preparing a sablefish]

    Although Ocean Wise’s Mike McDermid hopes to see the program go global, right now it’s staying within Canada. However, both France and Australia have started out a similar program within their food communities.
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  • Nov30


    Cannon Beach-27

    Driving Oregon’s long, scenic Route 26 West brought me to three Northern coast towns: Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Astoria.

    Cannon Beach

    True to storm-watching season, the three resort towns were quiet and free from summer tourist traffic. I spent a night in Cannon Beach, with an ocean view out to Haystack Rock.

    Cannon Beach/Haystack Rock

    Because it was so rainy, I missed out on the rock’s well-known tide pools, apparently one of the best on the coast. Haystack Rock also happens to be part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

    "A Delicate Balance" by Wayne Chabre Cannon Beach shops

    Lots of cute boutiques and art galleries line Hemlock Street, Cannon Beach’s main artery. It’s also where EVOO Cooking School is located.

    Cannon Beach/EVOO Cooking School

    I had the chance to enjoy Chef Bob Neroni’s Dinner Show here one night.

    Seaside is Oregon’s first resort town, and for me, made for a good breakfast stop between Cannon Beach and Astoria. It’s also at the official end point of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Did I mention storm-watching season?

    Seaside/End of the Lewis & Clark Trail

    A one and a half mile long promenade aka “The Prom” forms the core of this cute little village.

    Seaside Coffee Roasting Company Seaside Coffee Roasting Company Seaside Coffee Roasting Company
    [Seaside Coffee Roasting Company]

    If you’re into 1920’s-era classic arcade games like Skee-Ball or Fascination, Seaside’s got ’em.

    Astoria Flavel House Museum

    Further north in Oregon’s west corner pocket lies Astoria, the oldest United States settlement west of the Rockies.

    Astoria/Downtown Astoria/Downtown

    In the late 1800’s, the town’s salmon canneries, forest, and shipping industries turned the region into the liveliest boom town between Seattle and San Francisco. Both the area’s culture and economy were expanded with the arrival of Finnish, Scandinavian, and Chinese immigrants.

    Astoria Bridge

    One of my favourite Astoria icons is the Astoria-Megler Bridge, spanning 4.2 miles, making it the longest three-span truss bridge in the world. It connects Astoria, Oregon with Point Ellice, Washington. The bridge is designed to withstand wind gusts up to 150 miles per hour. At times last week, I felt as though the bridge was being tested as a major storm swept down the coast.
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  • Nov29


    Kendall Jackson Vineyard
    [Kendall Jackson Vineyard]

    California wines have always been a personal journey for me. You see, I’m biased. I lived in California for 19 years, seven of those in San Francisco, within a close hop to many of the best-known and loved vineyards and their remarkable wines. Which is why last night was a bit of a homecoming for me. The Vancouver International Wine Festival assembled a collection of 64 wines and a group of local media and bloggers at Blue Water Café’s wine room to sample and learn about California’s ever-growing wine regions ahead of the 2013 week-long event.

    This year’s regional theme is California, with Chardonnay its global focus. Those are words of marriage to me. I spent many post-university years enjoying California Chards right through to the present. Years of climate change, growing methods, and newer winemakers on the scene have created even more diversity in this varietal.

    Signorello Vineyards
    [Signorello Vineyards]

    For many new to the wine world, Chardonnay is often considered the “rite of passage” into the market (according to Wikipedia). Although it did peak in the late 1980’s and was negatively seen as a major factor in wine market globalization, Chardonnay remains to this day as one of the most widely-planted grape varieties. And it overtook Riesling in 1990 as California’s dominant white wine.

    So with that said, how does a wine lover approach a festival with the enormity of pours on offer such as Vancouver’s International Wine Fest? After all, it’s one of North America’s largest wine festivals, entering 35 years of activity.

    Well, the International Festival Tasting Room is a great place to start. Don’t feel daunted by the 767 wines (from 15 countries) that will poured at the Vancouver Convention Centre (February 28, March 1 and 2). There will be a Chardonnay Tasting Station, offering over 128 wines with experts from the International Sommelier Guild to answer questions and offer advice.

    My tip is to start with the California wines, explore those you haven’t yet tried, and head to the other countries from there (repeat after me: admire, smell, sip, spit).

    4 California wines

    Out of those 64 wines poured last night, I discovered a few favourites:

    Benziger Carneros Chardonnay 2010 ($27.99) – Fragrant honeysuckle and pineapple aromas greet the nose leading into a pear/citrus medium-bodied wine.

    Cameron Hughes Lot 400 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($49.99) – This one’s got crushed berries, plum, and violets together with a dense texture. Loved the strength in this wine and it sits nicely on the palate for a few moments after drinking.

    Duckhorn Decoy Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($32.95) – This is a lovely wine, aged a year in French Oak, with rich red and black fruit aromas on the nose. I sensed notes of caramel too. It has a seamless tannin structure and good acidity.

    Edna Valley Saint Louis Obispo Paragon Chardonnay 2010 ($19.99) – Quince, pear, green apple, and light pineapple provided me a fresh taste in this medium-bodied Chard. It was also the first wine I drank that evening; its flavours came alive in my palate.

    Fetzer Vineyards Crimson 2010 ($17.99) – Here’s a winery I’m very familiar with. In the early 90’s, I worked at Fetzer as a freelance graphic designer. Needless to say, the product’s brand and range have elevated since then. This was a happy discovery for me. Cab Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, Syrah, and Zinfandel combine to produce black cherry, allspice, and vanilla aromas, with deep plum and raspberry on the palate. It’s a great pour with food flexibility.

    Hahn California Pinot Noir 2011 ($21.99) – Hahn’s Pinot won a coveted Gold award at this year’s San Francisco International Wine Competition. The berries and dark cherry gave me a pleasing aroma, and this wine’s structure is solid.

    Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2010 ($37.99) – This one had all the things I love about Chardonnay: French oak barrel aging (nine months), apple and lemon aromas at the nose, and a lush texture all flowing into the glass. Its richness is derived from old vine Santa Maria benchland vineyards located in the Santa Barbara area.

    Miner ‘The Oracle’ Proprietary Blend 2008 ($99.99) – This is an exceptional wine through and through. I said yes! from the moment I sniffed the bottle. It’s blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Cabernet Franc (24%), Merlot (14%), Malbec (5%), and Petit Verdot (5%), creating a deeply textured, full bodied wine that would be enjoyable with roasted chicken or duck.

    Signorello Estate Hope’s Cuvée Chardonnay 2010 ($89.99) – This one tasted simply decadent. By carefully pressing whole grape clusters, the wine develops a silky mouthfeel, also enhancing aging potential, according to winemaker Ray Signorello, Jr. Lovely to note that the winery was the former home of a race horse retirement home on the Silverado Trail in Napa. This wine’s got crisp apple and pear aromas with hints of lemon zest and nutmeg, leading to a soft finish.

    Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($117.99) – This one rounds out my informal top 10 list. To create this wine, Signorello uses traditional French winemaking techniques, including extended maceration (average of 25 days on the grape skins). It’s been aged for 16 months in new Tronacais, Nevers, and Alliers Oak barrels, topped monthly and racked every six months. This wine opens with tobacco and cherry aromas, with cherry and blackberry on the palate. Its tannins are firm enough to allow this Cab Sauv to improve over time (15 years is suggested).

    For more information on the wines, signature events, and tickets, visit the Vancouver International Wine Festival website.

  • Nov29


    Ryan Beil. Photo credit: David Cooper
    [Ryan Beil in Santaland Diaries; photo by David Cooper]

    It’s New York City, 1991, heading into a busy holiday season at Macy’s department store. Enter one soap opera-starstruck elf, who for the next hour and change will entertain the red and white-striped stockings out of the audience. Ryan Beil stars in Santaland Diaries, a one-man campy monologue written by David Sedaris. Known for his wicked sense of humour, Sedaris’ essay about his trials and tribulations as an elf first emerged on NPR’s Morning Edition. The piece was a success, leading the author to publish it in both Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice.

    Ryan Beil. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

    In Santaland Diaries, all manner of working conditions are discussed, from elf training right through to the elves that each play a role in a hectic department store Santaland.

    It’s a treat to watch Beil’s comic brilliance. And listening to his stories as he dons an elf suit makes it all the more hysterical. This daily account leading up to Christmas Eve will leave you laughing out of your seat. Set and Lighting Designer Ted Roberts does a fabulous job through simple white revolving boxes and other props to bring the play to life without a single Christmas tree ever making it on stage.

    Beil has also starred in The Importance of Being Earnest, Billy Bishop Goes to War, and Main Street Theatre’s Endgame. He’s been awarded a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe for The Sunday Service, of which he is a founding member.

    Ryan Beil. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

    This elf’s seen it all and is ready to share it with you. Don’t miss out on Santaland Diaries, playing through December 29 (held over for another week!) at Granville Island’s Revue Stage.

    Special added holiday performances:
    Monday, December 24: 2 pm and 5 pm
    Wednesday, December 26: 2 pm and 8 pm
    Thursday, December 27: 8 pm
    Friday, December 28: 8 pm
    Saturday, December 29: 2 pm and 8 pm

    Santaland Diaries is an Arts Club Theatre production directed by John Murphy. Except where noted, photos courtesy of Tim Matheson.

  • Nov29


    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel

    Astoria’s Cannery Pier Hotel has a unique location, literally 600 feet into the Columbia River’s shipping channel.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel

    This hotel’s all about the enjoyment of the river. Floor-to-ceiling windows face out to the river, with cozy tables and chairs set up on both the ground and first floors. There’s a lot of well-lit spaces for reading and relaxation. Modern decor, fireplaces, and a small breakfast room add to the Cannery Pier lobby’s charm.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel limo

    Classy old cars such as a 1938 Packard, 1939 Buick, and 1945 Cadillac take guests out in style in the evening. It’s a complimentary service that the hotel offers. They’ll even pick you up and bring you back; the restaurant or bar will phone the hotel for a pick up. In less inclement weather (I was there during storm-watching season), free day-use retro style cruiser bikes are available for guests.


    A four mile river walk path stretches from one end of town to another. I’d like to return with my husband to take in the shops, historical buildings, and views along the railroad tracks. There’s also a riverfront trolley, a restored 1913 model that takes you along the riverfront (operates on weekends only in winter). I never did see one while there, but then again, the storms were raging and not too many people were out exploring for too long!


    The original hotel was begun 100 years ago by the large Finnish community. In the 1940’s, Astoria was known as the “Helsinki of the West”, following a large emigration to the town in the 1880’s. Finns as well as other Europeans came to Astoria to work in the fishing industry. In fact, a third generation Finnish bakery supplies the pastries at breakfast time.

    Speaking of breakfast, a continental breakfast spread is included with your stay. Another nice touch is a 5 pm wine and cheese reception, featuring wine-maple cold smoked Chinook salmon from Josephson’s Smoked Fish House, rye bread from the Finnish bakery mentioned earlier, cheeses and Oregon wines.

    Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel Astoria/Cannery Pier Hotel

    Back in Astoria’s canning heyday, there were some 26 canneries open, producing a range of products. The second floor of the hotel has a nice historical walk-through museum of the canning industry as well as the Astoria-Megler Bridge, George Flavel, the area’s first and best known Columbia River Bar Pilot, and other well-documented aspects about the town.
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  • Nov28


    Vancouver Bach Choir

    The Vancouver Bach Choir presents John Adams’ illuminating nativity oratorio El Niño (The Infant) on Dec. 15 at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre. Hailed as “a Messiah for the modern age”, El Niño is a poetic retelling of Christ’s birth from one of the world’s most vital and prolific living composers, John Adams.

    Born in 1947, John Adams is an American composer best known for works such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), and the opera Nixon in China (1987). His minimal compositions make extensive use of repeating patterns, complex rhythms, and rich chords. Adams differs significantly from older generation minimalists, such as Phillip Glass or Steve Reich, in that his compositions are more developmental, contain climaxes, and integrate similar elements from Romanticism.

    Leslie Dala
    [Leslie Dala]

    El Niño has rapidly entered the yuletide canon for choirs and symphonies around the world – and it is easy to see why,” said Leslie Dala, Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir. “The intelligent, emotional telling of Christ’s birth is uniquely suited to our era, drawing from many sources beyond the Bible to weave a rich musical and narrative tapestry. Adams’ version of the story is one that is not meant for just religious individuals, but humanity as a whole, encouraging us to meditate on how every precious life is its own small miracle. I am thrilled the VBC will present the Canadian premiere of this masterpiece in Vancouver.”
    Read the rest of the post »

  • Nov28



    Electric guitars, a dancer suspended in the moon, and golden unicycles. And so begins Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, Amaluna.

    The story unfolds in the wake of a storm caused by Prospera. A group of young men lands on the island, setting the stage for an emotional love story between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before they can achieve mutual trust, faith, and harmony.

    No Cirque production would be complete without an array of performers that work their way into the audience and make merry before and during the show. I’m happy to report that this one’s also filled with such moments.

    Uneven Bars

    The lighting, costumes, and props are magnificent. From one act to another, they can all vary from shades of green, blue, and gold to deep reds, oranges, and purples.

    Cirque du Soleil is known for its incredibly colourful and detailed costumes and Amaluna is no exception. Inspired by Asia Minor, the corseted costumes of the Amazon warriors are augmented with ponytails and high-heeled black and red leather boots in a look that is more fantasy than historical reality. Amaluna’s world also includes costumed half-human, half-animal characters, lizards, peacocks and fairies.

    I love how the musical instruments are incorporated into the production. Sound travels seductively through the tent as lights move and balance between the performers, almost dancing with them at times.

    Amaluna stage

    Scott Pask’s set creates a mysterious, lush, and enchanted island whose most important feature is a carefully crafted forest of bamboo-like branches that both frame and surround the action.

    I was particularly impressed with the ceiling carousel, designed and engineered by Amaluna’s Montreal staff. This concept machine can pull five or six artists in different directions at one time, and seems to move with large, intricate ball bearings. The piece is entirely supported by the four masts in the tent. A couple of years ago, I was invited to watch the grand chapiteau erected for Kooza, and to imagine that these components are part of the tent is amazing. It’s a unique piece of equipment that you’ll want to watch if you can peel your eyes away from the colourful action on stage.

    An electric guitarist on stage in a long purple robe with its collar turned up is reminiscent of Prince, if Prince was to run away and join the Cirque that is.


    In between the awe-inspiring acts, it’s fun time for the kiddies featuring a clown and her buccaneer lover running amok on stage. I imagine that past the little one’s bedtime, this is a light way to keep them engaged for the evening.

    Aerial Hoop and Water Bowl
    [Marie-Michelle Faber and Iuliia Mykhailova: Aerial Hoop and Water Bowl]

    I won’t spoil the show by giving away too much, but stand-out performances include Lara Jacobs‘ Manipulation, Marie-Michelle Faber and Iuliia Mykhailova’s Aerial Hoop and Water Bowl performance (where Amaluna morphs into Aqualuna), and Viktor Kee’s Juggling. I guarantee that you haven’t seen juggling like this before!

    [Lara Jacobs: Manipulation]

    Amaluna world-premiered in Montreal on April 19, 2012 and will continue in Vancouver through December 30 at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver.

    All photos courtesy of Laurence Labat.

  • Nov28


    Cannon Beach-17

    Dinner at the EVOO Cooking School was one of the highlights of my stay in Cannon Beach. This well-loved foodie destination includes a cute but stocked gift shop, free Saturday food and wine tastings (11 am to 3 pm), and the Dinner Show, a four course interactive dinner hosted and prepared by Chef Bob Neroni and his wife Lenore Emery-Neroni. We were unfortunately unable to meet Lenore on the evening of our dinner show as she was called away on another commitment.

    EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop EVOO Cooking School/shop

    Bob began his culinary career in the early 80’s. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, but grew up in the kitchen as his grandfather owned a Jewish deli on New York’s Delancey Street. His Italian grandparents on his father’s side taught him the essentials of Italian cooking. He’s worked as an executive chef for Lowe’s, L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC, The Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers, and various Marriott Hotels around the US.

    EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

    A move back to Seattle saw him working as a culinary educator, consultant, and regional director of events and catering for Compass Group USA, the world’s largest food management company. I asked him if a restaurant is in the works. His answer: “We still may have a restaurant under our belt.”

    EVOO Cooking School

    Why EVOO? That’s one of the questions I asked Bob during the evening. Bob and Lenore picked 100 names, whittling selections down to a dozen, and so forth. As the couple like to cook with any culture that uses extra virgin olive oil in its cooking, this seemed like a fine solution. It also gives them a lot of latitude to try different things in their business.

    The dinner show is hosted six nights a week in summer, four in winter, plus a Sunday supper, summer Farmer’s market meal, and hands-on classes. As well, EVOO hosts two yearly culinary trips to Tuscany, through their Encore Club. This allow 14 guests to partake in the region’s culinary delights, and Bob offers trip priority to his regulars.

    Bob had two culinarians to help out for the evening: Florencio and Eduardo. They managed our group of 16 (a full house), with wine pouring, course platings, kitchen help, oven to stove trips, etc. both smiling along the way.

    EVOO Cooking School/Dinner Show menu

    The dinner show menu changes monthly, using 100% sustainable and organic ingredients. That means 100% of the animal or fish that’s purchase is used. Seafood choices change rapidly to reflect the fishing season’s demands. The wild mushrooms are locally foraged and used within two days of picking.

    Bob likes to explain as he goes along, allowing for questions from the group. As well, Bob discusses each wine, what we’re tasting, and how to enjoy each pairing with its chosen dish. Bob: “It’s important to find the essence and tastes in each wine to help pair it with food.”

    EVOO Cooking School, Chef Bob Neroni

    Chef Neroni’s culinary ‘trinity’ includes sel gris (sea salt), black pepper (Tellicherry peppercorns), and ground coriander.
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