• Archives
  • Nov28

    unicycles

    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.

    clowns

    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!

    Manipulation
    [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.
    Read the rest of the post »

  • Nov27

    Elements by the Sea, The Spa at Cannon Beach

    Visiting the Elements by the Sea spa was a matter of a few flights of steps down from my room followed by a short walk to the Hallmark Resort lobby elevator. This full-service spa will pamper you with a variety of massages, wraps, scrubs, and facials, all offered by appointment.

    Elements by the Sea, The Spa at Cannon Beach

    I chose a Citrus Fruit Body Wrap (one hour, $110, including exfoliation and massage). My visit started with a Stormy Weather ‘Steam and Soak’. I was led to a steam room complete with built-in light therapy and music. The spa has a light therapy menu that caters to each chakra for complete well-being. I had a happy orange/yellow colour scheme to help recreate a sunny day.

    Elements by the Sea, The Spa at Cannon Beach

    This pre-massage treatment lasts about 10 to 15 minutes and costs $15. A large copper tub filled with marine salts and pebbles for a foot soak was brought into the steam room, so that I could indulge all of my senses. The pebbles gave a nice textural feel to my feet, and brought me down one notch on the relaxation meter.

    My massage started with a dry brush exfoliation. I could tell that masseuse Judy Martin had done this more than a few times in the past! Lavender and eucalyptus (my choices) aromatherapy oils were used to enhance the soft lighting and calming music. Warmed citrus fruit oil was then brushed all over my body, followed by several layers of wrap to steep the oil through my pores. A delightful sensation as I closed my eyes and let myself melt away.
    Read the rest of the post »

  • Nov27

    Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-1

    I was invited to experience a wide range of Portuguese wines at a luncheon hosted at the still-hot Wildebeest in Gastown yesterday. We tasted eight wines in the downstairs wine bar before heading up for a three-course paired luncheon.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-2 Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-4 Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-11 Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-8

    The restaurant’s interior is group-friendly, making it easy to discuss wines while admiring the wood tables and interior decor, something reminiscent of an old school meets repurposed 19th century architecture.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Iain Philip
    [Iain Philip]

    Iain and Barb Philip led the tasting. Portugal has an exciting diversity of wines, and has resisted the temptation over the years to produce varieties sold around the world, instead focusing and maintaining indigenous varieties. While many of the country’s wines are difficult to pronounce, they are delicious and in keeping with Portugal’s long history of blended wine production by region.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Quinta do Ameal

    A single vineyard here can contain one soil type in one area and a completely different type in another. Portugal ranks eighth in the world and is the 12th largest producer globally.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-9

    As wine remains a large part of food culture there, a smaller amount is exported.

    Formerly a conglomerate of nine different wine cooperatives with little care for quality control, Portuguese wine production has experienced an amazing revolution in the last 15 to 20 years. Production is in the hands of smaller winemakers eager to produce top quality varietals.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-10

    And here are the wines.

    Dao Sul Cabriz Espumante Bruto ($14.99) – This is a lighter grape from the Dao region, and a crisp wine produced in the traditional method. Portugal has a great amount of bubble, particularly from the Barrarda region. There’s a lot of acidity in this wine. Dao Sul Cabriz was started by four wine lovers who wanted to get a quality wine on the market.

    Quinta do Ameal Loureiro ($16.99) – The cool, northern climate of Vinho Verde produces wines that are low in alcohol with zing. Grapes are lucky to grow in this area; traditionally the grapes were picked at an early stage, imparting less flavour. The yields have recently been reduced to five tons, using different farming techniques in order to get riper grapes.

    Casa das Gaeiras Branco ($14.99) – This wine is new to the market and produced in the windiest, coolest parts of the Lisboa region. Not a lot of aging occurs in the oak, making this a wine with citrus qualities. The grapes aren’t left that long on the vine either. Parras is a company that sources small wineries in smaller regions, helping growers to both produce the wine and get it to market.

    Quinta do Crasto Branco 2010 ($24.99) – This one’s grown in the Douro, the same region where port is produced. This crisp white has 12% alcohol and imparts a peach character. I found it both rich and soft, and would pair it with aged cheese. It’s produced in 100% stainless steel barrels.

    Van Zeller Quinta Vale de Maria 2008 ($39.99) – This one had an amazing buttery aroma on the nose and was by far my favourite of the reds poured. The wonderful velvety finish reminded me of Cabernet Sauvignon. 2008 is apparently an excellent vintage for this one.

    Udaca Touriga Nacional 2007 ($25.99) – Historically, the Dao region (where this wine is produced) is better known for its reds. This wine is drier, with ripe tannins.

    Parras Cavalo Bravo 2009 ($12.98) – The Cavalo is lighter in colour and higher in acid, making for a fruit-friendly wine. This winery is also one of the first to boldly move away from cork closures and use a screw cap.

    Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva ($17.99) – I found a light bouquet of fruits in this one. Periquita dates back to the 1850’s, Portugal’s first brand of bottle wine. In fact, Periquita became synonymous with Castellano grapes, due to its enormous and lasting popularity. The wine spends eight months in French and American oak.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Gem oyster, sorrel foam, pickled shallot
    [Gem oyster, sorrel foam, pickled shallot]

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Scallop, kohlrabi, sea buckthorn & honey, wine snow
    [Scallop, kohlrabi, sea buckthorn & honey, wine snow]

    Quinta do Chocapalha Arinto ($17.99) – This wine is prized for its ability to retain acidity; its grapes are grown across Portugal. It contains light fruit aromas with a slight feeling of Riesling in its makeup. I tasted lychee at the back of the palate. A gem oyster with sorrel foam and pickled shallot, as well as a scallop with compressed kohlrabi and sea buckthorn (a curious little berry grown inland) accompanied the Arinto. The berries just came alive with the wine, or was it the other way around?

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Duck breast, honey blazed, roasted root vegetables
    [Honey-glazed duck breast served with roasted root vegetables]

    Capitao Rayeo Reserva ($13.99) – This is a fun little red. This wine maker produces one third of the country’s wine. The Reserva’s got a light body, is jammy in texture, and blended with three grapes: Trincadeira, Syrah, and Aragonez. We enjoyed this with the main course: honey-glazed duck breast, with a selection of root vegetables from North Pemberton.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar/Chocolate cheesecake, rhubarb, malt soil
    [Chocolate cheesecake, rhubarb, malt soil]

    Dow’s LBV Port 2005 ($25.99) – A fantastic finish to our lunch, the Dow’s was paired with chocolate cheesecake, rhubarb, and malt soil. An abundance of rich decadent tastes and sips to round off the meal.

    Wines of Portugal Seminar at Wildebeest-5

    Wildebeest is located at 120 West Hastings Street in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

  • Nov26

    Louie Bluie

    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 Louie Bluie.

    Director Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Crumb) has always loved 1920’s and 30’s jazz, blues, country music, and ragtime. In the early 1980’s, Zwigoff heard one 78 rpm that blew him away: State Street Rag, produced in 1934, featuring one young Louie Bluie, aka Howard Armstrong.

    Zwigoff located the mandolinist in Detroit, 50 years after the album was released, hoping to write an article on him. Instead, he directed a brilliant documentary about Armstrong — a talented musician, raconteur, and member of the last known black string band in America.

    Esi Edugyan

    This month’s Cinema Salon is hosted by author Esi Edugyan. Esi Edugyan’s most recent novel, Half-Blood Blues, has picked up several literary awards, including the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2012 Elthel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Half-Blood Blues was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize, and was long-listed for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction.

    Edugyan has held fellowships in the US, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain, and Belgium and currently resides in Victoria, BC, with her husband and daughter.

    Vancity Cinema Salon with Esi Edugyan Presents Louie Bluie
    Date: Tuesday, December 4, 7:30 pm
    Venue: Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: $13.00; may be purchased online

  • Nov26

    Cannon Beach/Hallmark Resort

    Hallmark Resort is located just outside of Cannon Beach’s tiny village. Oceanfront rooms with balconies face out to Haystack Rock, one of Oregon coast’s iconic landmarks.

    Cannon Beach/Haystack Rock

    Check in was done at the office. I was able to get my car to a parking space (free guest parking) close to my room on the third floor. There are a couple of elevators located around the property, but be prepared to walk your luggage up as I noticed that most rooms in my part of the resort weren’t near an elevator.

    Cannon Beach/Hallmark Resort

    The first thing that I noticed in my room was the jacuzzi whirlpool, with a small jar of bath salts and a couple of chocolates waiting by the basket of towels. The room is inviting with its fireplace, table with a view, king size bed, and amenities such as a a microwave, small fridge, and coffee maker.

    Cannon Beach/Hallmark Resort

    Free wifi is complemented by a guest computer at the resort’s room off of the lobby. Here’s where you can also grab a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to enjoy by the fireplace while the waves crash against the rocks.

    Cannon Beach-27

    I was here for storm-watching and was not disappointed, as much of my stay was a rainy one.

    Cannon Beach/Hallmark Resort

    No matter, once I headed into town for lunch, I found several shops, art galleries, a bank, market, library, bakery, and cafés to explore.

    Cannon Beach shopper
    [A lone seagull exits The Picnic Basket in Cannon Beach]

    Cannon Beach shops Cannon Beach-11 Cannon Beach-12 Cannon Beach/EVOO Cooking School

    By the way, Waves of Grain Bakery is outside town headed in the opposite direction. If you’re out this way, it’s not to be missed for its deliciousness.

    It was easy to spread out in my spacious room. A small screened window to the side of the balcony door allowed fresh sea breezes into my room, something I welcome in any hotel, regardless of whether there’s an in-room heating/AC system or not. My afternoon was spent simply unwinding from the drive out from Portland, and a visit to the spa.

    Hallmark Resort

    I was pampered at Elements by the Sea, a full service spa located at the resort. In a nearby building are two indoor salt water pools, three spas, a dry sauna, and fitness centre.

    Cannon Beach-25

    Hallmark Resort is pet-friendly and perfect for couples, families, special occasions, and a long weekend escape from the city. Guest laundry is also available. Banquet and meeting rooms make this a great retreat venue. The staff are very helpful and can recommend spots to visit along the coast when you’re headed out.

    Hallmark Resort has a sister property in Newport, called the Oceanfront Hallmark Resort. Hallmark Resort is located at 1400 South Hemlock Street in Cannon Beach.

    Cannon Beach/Hallmark Resort view

    My one night stay was hosted by both Travel Oregon and Hallmark Resort.

  • Nov23

    Portland/Union Station

    My Oregon adventure began with a scenic journey aboard Amtrak Cascades. In about eight hours, we pulled into Portland’s Union Station, moments from my downtown hotel for the night. I remember feeling ready to roll, as the train seats were much more comfy than on an airplane’s. Wifi signals from start to finish, I was able to check email and get a bit of work done, as well as some shut-eye (6:40 am direct departure from Vancouver).

    Red Star Restaurant provided a great Pacific northwest dinner that evening. Executive Chef Kyle Rourke creates a thoughtful menu with seasonal ingredients. Chef Rourke likes to combine comfort food, regional cuisine, and local products in a relaxed atmosphere. A variety of Portland craft brews are available on tap as well as wine and cocktails. Bourbon fans will want to check out the tavern’s bourbon wall, the largest and most comprehensive in Oregon. I enjoyed a pan roasted snapper with sautéed kale and mashed potato ($27), a slight variation from the menu offering (leeks, chanterele cream).

    Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel

    I slept like a baby at the Kimpton Monaco Hotel, a stylish boutique property in the PDX core.

    Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel

    Each room has a unique collection of designer furnishings and accents.

    Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel Portland/Kimpton Monaco Hotel

    My favourite design element is this duck feet lamp on my room’s coffee table.

    Portland/Mother's Bistro

    Mother’s Bistro is a five minute walk away. A brisk morning stroll brought me back to one of my favourite haunts. Pumpkin pancakes were the day’s feature, and delicious! I added one onto my egg and toast breakfast.

    Portland/Mother's Bistro

    The lineup at Voodoo Doughnuts was reasonable (we’ve had waits of over an hour), so I picked out a couple of doughnuts that were sold out the last time my husband and I visited Portland: the Maple Bacon Bar and Voodoo Doll for my two hour drive out to the coast.

    Portland/Voodoo Doughnuts Voodoo Doll, Bacon Maple Bar/Voodoo Doughnuts Bacon Maple Bar/Voodoo Doughnuts

    These are scrumptious and yummy treats, each and every one. And the interior is colourful to hang out in while deciding on your batch. Those pink boxes are coveted up and down the coast!

    Portland/Voodoo Doughnuts Portland/Voodoo Doughnuts interior

    Upon returning from the Oregon coast, I dined at Ringside Fish House with its second floor view and excellent seafood dishes. My lunch was an Ahi tuna and bacon burger (ground together in-house), served with a fried egg on top, grilled red onion, whole grain mustard aioli and thin steak frites ($14.75). A simple green salad ($4) completed the pre-train return meal. As for craft beer, I picked a Boneyard IPA from Bend, Oregon.

    Portland/Ringside Fish House

    My Amtrak Cascades business class return ticket, stay at the Kimpton Monaco, and dinner at Red Star Restaurant were compliments of Hotel Monaco and Travel Oregon. My lunch at Ringside Fish House was courtesy of Amtrak Cascades.

  • Nov23

    Pirate Joe's Kitsilano

    In case you hadn’t seen my tweets from a couple of weeks back, Pirate Joe’s has opened shop in Vancouver, on West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano.

    Having lived in California for nearly 20 years, I was always close to a Trader Joe’s (when I lived in West Hollywood, an enviable two blocks from one!).

    Trader Joe's sign from Bellingham, WA store

    Little did I realize how much I’d taken these beautifully-stocked stores for granted until I left for Europe, later returning to live in Vancity.

    I spoke with Barry at the shop as I perused items now easily accessible without border lineups or several hours on the road.

    All the products are bought on the up and up at the Bellingham TJ’s. Pirate Joes’ owner, Mike Hallatt, has a commerce license to bring these goodies to the 49th parallel without illegal bootlegging measures. The prices are higher to take into account costs incurred from gas, travel, and border waits.

    They keep track of what items do well overall, focusing on these to bring over on a weekly basis.

    I’m sure anyone who’s been to the Trader has their own favourites, so keep this shop in mind for the holidays and beyond. No, I haven’t been bribed with goods nor paid to write this post. I’m simply hoping that by spreading the word, that the shop will continue to exist let alone grow.

    Ahoy, mates! Pirate Joe’s is located at 2348 West 4th Avenue. So far there’s no fixed opening hours sign, but if one gets put up, I’ll update this post. Pirate Joe’s is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm.

    Trader Joe's stash from San Francisco
    [My Himalayan pink salt crystal stash from a recent San Francisco Joe’s visit]

  • Nov22

    Early Music Vancouver concert

    Early Music Vancouver is saddened by the recent news that MusicFest Vancouver (formerly Festival Vancouver) has suspended operations. Since this festival’s inception in 2000, Early Music Vancouver has enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership with, and played a major role in its offerings.

    Early Music Vancouver has successfully self-produced many major annual events at the Chan Centre for presentation as part of MusicFest, offering critically acclaimed performances of two fully-staged Monteverdi operas (Orfeo and The Coronation of Poppea) as well as stunning large-scale concert performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers, Caldara’s Clodoveo, Rameau’s Pygmalion, Purcell’s Faerie Queene and King Arthur and Handel’s Resurrezione and Orlando.

    Although the regrettable suspension of MusicFest Vancouver will have an impact on Early Music Vancouver, the future of the Vancouver Early Music Festival is secure and the organization looks forward to next year’s exciting edition that will take place from July 28 through August 17, 2013.

    Early Music Vancouver concert

    The 2013 centrepiece production at the Chan Centre will be Handel’s Israel in Egypt with an all-star cast of internationally renowned soloists and the Early Music Vancouver Baroque Festival Orchestra and Chorus directed by Alexander Weimann.

    This year’s festival will also see the return of the world-renowned Paris-based mediaeval ensemble Sequentia with a new programme centred around the original Carmina Burana, Les Voix Baroques, celebrating the 450th anniversary of John Dowland.

    In addition, a programme of sacred music from the early German Baroque, recitals by soprano Ellen Hargis and by lutenist Robert Barto, as well as other concerts featuring early music of the renaissance, baroque, and other styles will form part of next year’s season.

    More details for the 2013 Vancouver Early Music Festival will be available online in the coming months. Stay tuned!

  • Nov20

    Christmas at Hycroft House-24

    ‘Tis the season…for holiday craft fairs! I’ve just learned of a sweet little weekend event coming next month (December 15 and 16) to False Creek’s historic Salt Building: The Inaugural Great Canadian Craft Fair.

    One Leaf Creations

    The Great Canadian Craft Fair organization is a group of seasoned vendors and crafters ‘working like elves around the clock’ to make this craft fair the best of the bunch. The Salt Building will serve as the venue, an easily reached spot both by car and public transit routes (and a three-minute walk from the Olympic Village SkyTrain station). Here’s a list of craft fair vendors confirmed so far. More are being added daily.

    In addition to the crafts for sale, there will be face painting, children’s story time, door prizes, and a food drive benefitting the Vancouver Food Bank.

    Vista d Oro preserves

    I think I’ll be able to get my husband out to this one, as it’s just across the way from the recently-opened Tap and Barrel. Ladies, this may be your best strategy! Enjoy a fun day of shopping with local flavour while skipping busy malls. Support local artisans in a festive holiday atmosphere. I hear that Santa is rumoured to make an appearance.

    Great Canadian Craft Fair
    Dates: Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, 11 am to 6 pm
    Venue: Salt Building, 85 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver
    Tickets: $15 (plus Eventbrite fee); available online (Kids 12 and under free). Book early for specially-discounted early-bird entry deals and a vendor goody bag!

  • Nov20

    Lowepro Adventura 140, 160

    Lowepro has a pretty large range of camera bags on the market (I’m a particular fan of the Passport Sling, one of the bags I reviewed earlier this year). I wanted to try out a couple of models ahead of the holiday shopping season, so I chose both the Adventura 140 and 160, similar models, in two different sizes. They’re part of a series that includes the 120, 140, 160, and 170.
    Read the rest of the post »

  • Nov16

    Chevrolet Equinox-3

    My husband and I recently hit the road south with a Chevrolet Equinox for Taste of Tulalip, an indulgent weekend of food and wine in Western Washington.

    Chevrolet Equinox-2

    As we started off on a crisp fall morning, we familiarized ourselves with the onboard tech features, starting with MyLink, the home base for all things music and Bluetooth. MyLink incorporates voice-activated features, and pairs well with a smart phone (we used an iPhone 4 to test it out). Once the system recognized my phone, I was able to access my phone contacts, and dial handsfree.

    Chevrolet Equinox-4

    Often-used menu items can also be found right on the steering wheel.

    Chevrolet Equinox-6

    XM Satellite Radio meant a huge variety of channels instantly accessible for our trip. Cue my 80’s college soundtrack brought back to life: First Wave! The quality sound system is fully customizable through the menu screen.

    Chevrolet Equinox-7

    A USB port in the centre console was a well-thought out addition. We arrived with a fully charged phone battery!

    Chevrolet Equinox-1

    The screen checks for surrounding concerns as you back up. The Equinox gauges braking distance based on speed while on the highway. If you drive too close to oncoming cars, a sensor will trigger a red crash icon indicating that you’re getting close to danger.

    Another safety feature we liked was the side mirrors that have a blind spot incorporated into them. They are also heated to stay clear through frosty weather.

    The liftgate can open fully, 3/4, or be set to manual operation, all from the car’s inside. There’s a button that will close the liftgate on its own. I do hope that Chevy will soon implement the kick sensor liftgate feature that can be found on the 2013 Ford Escape, another SUV that I recently had the chance to take out for a day, courtesy of Ford Canada.

    Chevrolet Equinox-8
    [MyLink paired with a 3rd generation iPod Nano]

    This is a fun, roomy car that’s easy to operate, full of standard features, and up to date on the tech front. A couple of things we could have benefitted from were a lighted mirror adjustment panel on the driver’s door side (to change the mirror’s angle in the dark), as well as front passenger seat options (the driver’s seat has 8-way power options with lumbar support while the passenger side only has two manual adjustments).

    The base price for a 2013 Equinox is $33,775. Many thanks to Carter GM for letting us get our hands on an Equinox for the weekend.

  • Nov15

    Hibulb Cultural Center-2 Hibulb Cultural Center-3
    [L to R: Kaya, 2010 by James Madison; Puget Sound Salish Welcome Figure, 2010 by Joe Gobin]

    Last August, the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve opened its doors to the public. A 30-year vision was realized with the opening of the 23,000 square foot facility (plus 50-acre natural history preserve), that serves both as a museum and an educational center expressing the spirit of the Tulalip people.

    Hibulb Cultural Center-6
    [Remains of a basket, carbon-dated to nearly 2,000 years old]

    The interactive cultural center features a main exhibit, a temporary exhibit, two classrooms, a long house, a research library, and gift shop. It also features a fully certified collections and archaeological repository. It is the only Tribal facility certified by the state of Washington.

    Hibulb Cultural Center-1

    Through a set of carved wooden doors flanked by decorative handles, our small media group was taken on a guided tour of the center’s galleries, ahead of the weekend’s Taste of Tulalip wine and food festival.

    Permanent collection artifacts and displays tell the background of the Tulalip Tribes, federally recognized successors in interest to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, as well as other nearby tribes who signed the Treaty of Point Elliott. These Tribes currently include around 4,000 members, with 2,500 living on the Reservation.

    Hibulb Cultural Center-4

    The Main Gallery focuses on how the tribes’ ancestors lived off the land, connected by waterways and rivers. Displays show the importance of cedar trees, and how the tribes used this resource in tool-making and other materials for daily existence.

    Hibulb Cultural Center-7

    Survival also depended on annual salmon runs. A fishing hut is replicated to show how the fishing people lived along the shorelines, traveling to these camps to set up for the catch. The Tulalip Tribe felt connected to the Earth as caretakers, and cared for the land, trees, animals, and fish. This relationship spawned names, songs, and stories about the Salish Sea territories, the Snohomish being amongst the largest and most respected tribes in the region.

    Hibulb Cultural Center-8 Hibulb Cultural Center-9

    There’s an interactive family tree exhibit for Tribal members to both remember and rediscover their family connections. By typing a Tribal member ID into the system, four of the earliest ancestors on the family tree will show up.

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    Indian soldiers also fought to defend the United States against its European enemies during World War One. A special exhibit entitled “Warriors We Remember” shows many of the faces that risked their lives to war, despite racism along with the hardships, nightmares, and abandonment that many experienced upon returning home.

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    An ongoing variety of events is worth looking into before you head over. Film documentaries, story time, crafts, and holiday-themed events form part of an already interesting visit to the center.

    If you’re staying at the Tulalip Resort and Casino, the $10 entrance fee ($7 seniors, $6 students) is waived. As well, a free shuttle can be arranged in both directions, making this beautiful spot an educational and informative experience for adults and children alike.

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    The Hibulb Cultural Centre & Natural History Preserve is located at 6410 23rd Avenue NE in Tulalip, Washington, close to the Tulalip Resort and Casino. It’s open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and on weekends from noon to 5 pm. Visit the website for admission information and upcoming exhibitions.

  • Nov14

    Tulalip Resort-7

    Part of our weekend Taste of Tulalip experience was a two night stay at the Tulalip Resort and Casino in Washington State.

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    “In 1855, with the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty, the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other Pacific Northwest allied tribes settled what is now the Tulalip Reservation.” The word Tulalip means “small-mouthed bay” in the Lushootseed Salish language, depicting the body of water on the western boundary of the reservation.

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    After handing our keys to the valet for complimentary guest parking, we checked into our double room, a comfortable, large space with sitting area, desk, full bathroom, and packed with creature comforts. High-speed wifi was excellent in both our room and around the resort. A 47″ flat screen HDTV was ready and loaded with channels for our enjoyment, while a Keurig coffee maker and coffee and tea pod assortment sat on top of a marble counter and mini bar.

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    The bathroom’s walk-in shower has a trio of adjustable water jets. His ‘n’ hers sinks are set up along a roomy marble countertop, also providing several bath and sundry items for our use.

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    In-room AC and heat controls all functioned properly, though I’m a fan of an open window option.

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    There’s space to spread out and enjoy the Coast Salish artwork, handblown glass lamps, and other accents that add to the room’s charm. A small safe held our passports and valuables (I was able to stack a DSLR camera with viewfinder on the bottom as well). The closet has a handy motion-sensor light that will come on when you step inside.

    It’s easy to get work done at the desk as there’s outlets onboard the working lamps (always a favourite feature of any hotel room for us). The iHome docking station by the bed was home base to our iPod Nano for the weekend.

    We slept very well on the comfy mattress with signature bedding and Native art blanket throws. The hotel has an after 10 pm quiet hours policy in effect, and you must agree to this upon registration. The hotel staff were outgoing and friendly, while check-in and check-out was effortless. The Bell Desk will hold any valuable items in a secure area if you check out and have a hankering for some outlet shopping before heading home (as we did).

    The lobby is filled with beautiful totem poles, carvings, and artifacts.

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    Once you’re ready to leave the comfort of the room, there’s an abundance of options available for dining, spa treatments, gambling at the attached Casino, touring the Hibulb Cultural Center, holding meetings or weddings, or a hop to the Seattle Premium Outlets in the next building over. The Resort also has a 24 hour fitness center and pool (6:30 am to 10:30 pm) for guest enjoyment.

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    Don’t miss the House Post at the entrance to the resort. Artist James Madison created this spectacular work of art in 2008, and the characters tell a story. The second floor offers an even better view, with informative info boards that describe the traditional totem pole ‘with a modern twist’ in detail.

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    The casino has over 2,000 of the newest slot and video poker machines, over 50 gaming tables, championship poker room, and the Slehal Room, a well-appointed gaming room with full-size Baccarat table and full-service bar.
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  • Nov14

    Leslie Sbrocco, Chef Marcus Samuelsson
    [‘Thirsty Girl’ Leslie Sbrocco, Chef Marcus Samuelsson]

    After Friday evening’s big Celebration Dinner, the Taste of Tulalip continued with a series of events throughout Saturday. As part of the All Access Pass ($225 per person), we attended “He Said, She Said” VIP Wine Seminar, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s cooking seminar, a private Magnum party at the very cool mPulse Lounge, early entry into the Grand Taste, and the Rock-n-Roll Challenge cook off, where I was one of the judges voting for best culinary dish (secret ingredient: lobster!).

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    He Said, She Said” brought together Thirsty Girl Leslie Sbrocco and Tulalip Resort Sommelier Tommy Thompson. Leslie’s an award-winning author, TV host, and founder of the Thirsty Girl multimedia company.

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    [Leslie Sbrocco, Tommy Thompson, Chef Marcus Samuelsson]

    Five featured winemakers each poured a taste for sampling at Canoe’s Cabaret.

    Ron Penner-Ash, Penner-Ash 2010 ‘Pas de Nom’ Pinot noir, Newberg, Oregon
    Pas de Nom‘ is a flexible food wine, with rose petal notes, and a nice lingering on the palate.

    Brett deLeuze, ZD Founders Reserve Pinot noir, Napa, California
    This is a vineyard planted on volcanic soils, holding water longer, and helping to produce a meaty character in this medium-bodied pinot with a deep plum colour.

    Sean Boyd, Woodinville Wine Indomitable 2008 Bordeaux blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
    75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet France, 12% Merlot – This wine sits in 100% new French oak for 20 months, its grapes grown on mostly fractured rock and sandy soils from two vineyards. It’s powerful and sumptuous, and the best representation of a Bordeaux style wine.

    Marc Perrin, Chateau de Beaucastel 2009, Rhône Valley, France
    13 different grapes go into this wine, giving it both complex and unique character. It can cellar for 40-50 years, as well as be enjoyed now. Marc recommends pairing it with lamb, beef, and game. There are no rough edges around this wine.

    Lucio Gomiero, Vignalta Alpinae Fior d’Arancioi, Veneto, Italy
    Lucio allows the grapes to shrivel for four and a half months inside the winery, during the cold winter months. The grapes are crushed in January, and fermented in barrel for a couple of years, as this wine starts out ‘as thick as honey’. It’s reminiscent of orange muscat, and has spicy notes in the back of the palate. It’s a great dessert wine without being presumptuous. I think that goat cheese would be marvelous with this wine.

    Marcus Samuelsson

    What’s even better than Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s rock star wardrobe is his cooking. Ethiopian born, French trained, and inspired at an early age by his Swedish grandmother’s comfort food, this high profile chef has won three James Beard Awards, rubbing elbows with President Obama as he’s presented meals at state dinners and DNC fundraisers. His Harlem, NYC restaurant Red Rooster builds on Harlem’s rich culture, serving up comfort food inspired by the roots of American cuisine. While he prepared fried chicken with collard greens for the seminar, I was interested in his story about Ethiopian coffee culture.
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