East Van Panto Localizes The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like PoCo. There’s no place like PoCo.” Yes, in The Wizard of Oz, as presented by the East Van Panto, Dorothy lives in a tiny house in Port Coquitlam, not Kansas. She isn’t carried away by an act of God, but instead by a certain burst pipeline. And the wizard, well, you’ll have to come and see what local figure he turns out to be.

So, it’s not Judy Garland skipping along the yellow brick road, but I think that’s just fine.

A Re-imagining of a Classic

Dorothy lands at the intersection of Nanaimo and Hastings and in Vancouver, “the world’s greenest city”. She meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, but they don’t look the way you might expect. Scarecrow is the weed-packed Stoned Crow. The Tin Man is Tin Them, an Eastside Culture Crawl sculpture that didn’t sell, oh and is gender-nonbinary. And, the cowardly lion is still cowardly, but now he’s a B.C. Lion player afraid of the ball.

All these re-imagined characters come with a unique soundtrack too, spanning genres and decades. The songs are also universally well-sung, as the East Van Panto cast has some serious pipes. Christine Quintana (Dorothy) is particularly impressive.

The sets also bring various Vancouver neighbourhoods to life, and the giant Wizard face is truly the standout visual in the show.

The East Van Panto Experience

This was my very first panto, and the participatory nature of the experience was more enjoyable than I expected. It was fun to sing along, shout out, and participate in ways frowned upon at a conventional theater performance.

The only thing that gave me pause was that the East Van Panto allows kids five and up to attend these shows. I think the theory is that children won’t get the more controversial stuff, and will simply enjoy the performance on a level different from adults. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, though. Some kids are perceptive enough to get at least some of the more obvious things. So, if you’re not prepared to have a conversation with your kids about the green stuff inside of Stoned Crow and the chicken factory smell that puts Dorothy to sleep , I’d give this one a miss.

However, adults, you will laugh and smile. You’ll enjoy the jabs at politicians and the price of real estate, because, hey it’s better to laugh than cry, isn’t it?

Note: I won two tickets to this show and a luncheon that preceded it from the SFU alumni association. This was a wonderful treat, and I sincerely thank my alma mater for it. Read about my last win from SFU here.

East Van Panto lunch

Refresh Market Contest Win

Another day, another craft fair win! Yes, as you may remember I recently won two tickets to Circle Craft Market and had a fabulous time. My latest win took me out to Squamish and the Refresh Market. Many thanks to Miss604 for offering the First Dibs Access contest. The prize included the following for myself and my husband:

  • Early entrance to the market before the public (1 hour before opening)
  • Two cocktails
  • Two goody bags including coffee and wonderfully fragrant bath salts

Refresh Market coffee and bath saltsRefresh Market: A Special Setting

Refresh Market Train

One thing that makes the Refresh Market unique is its location. The event is held in the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish. Thus, there are many vintage trains and historic buildings that transport you back in time. We went on one of the railway cars, which a fortune teller was using, to see what was inside. Passenger cars with opulent bedspreads, a galley fully equipped with food stuffs like Dainticuts macaroni, and an office with a vintage typewriter; all this made me want to come back and explore the 12-acre site further.

Finds at Delish General Store

Delish General Store Finds at Refresh Market

Delish General Store is always a favourite for me at any craft fair I visit. They always have interesting items you haven’t seen anywhere else. This time, I bought these handbag rescue wipes and used them immediately upon returning home. My purse had been in need of some care and attention for some time. I was really impressed with the results. Quickly and with no mess, my purse has been restored to an almost like-new condition. This product is well-worth the $10 I spent, especially given that there are still plenty of wipes left in the box.

Also, I thought I’d give this stain remover stick a chance. For only $5, I thought it might help restore a couple of tops that have been looking rather forlorn in my dresser drawer. Fingers crossed that the results will make me as happy as the handbag wipes did!

Refresh Market Offers Tasty Treats

Food sampling at the Refresh Market is truly enjoyable. And, of course, we could not resist purchasing a couple of delectable offerings. The first came from another familiar favourite Coconama. Coconama salted caramel truffles Refresh MarketThis North Vancouver company makes Japanese chocolate ganache truffles that are little morsels of pure joy. This time we went for their most popular flavour, salted caramel. Definitely a great choice.

For the long drive home, we selected fruit jellies from North Shore Candy Company. This new candy start-up uses natural fruit flavours and colours in their products, and the taste is impressive. The flavours are strong and evocative of the summer fruit they were made from. North Shore Candy Company Refresh MarketThese are not the store-bought, waxy gummies of your childhood. No, these are something entirely different, and perfect for an hour-plus drive home on a Friday evening.




A Footnote from the Refresh Market

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning Annie Axtell‘s lunar calendars. Though we didn’t buy one, I couldn’t help, but appreciate the quality work and creativity that went into creating them. So, if you’re looking for an affordable, eye-catching gift for the stargazer in your life, I think she may have that perfect present you’ve been searching for.


Circle Craft Market Win Inspires

Circle Craft Market

It’s no secret to any of my loyal readers that I love craft fairs. And the start of the Christmas craft fair season, always begins with the Circle Craft Market. So, I was very happy to win two tickets to this event where more than 300 artisans were selling their work. What I’m going to focus on in this post is the crafters that impressed me most with their creations, and show off some of the lovely things I bought from them.

Jackie Lee is Out of this World

Circle Craft Market Space Stuff

If all things outer space fascinate you, and you enjoy Art Deco, then Jackie Lee’s work will wow you. Her illustrations, stickers, and pins were unlike anything else at the market. This cycling astronaut pin and moon sticker are what we just had to take home.

Cheerful Tea Towels for Rainy Days

Circle Craft Market Tea Towels

My best friend has recently moved to Seattle. Like Vancouver, it’s a rainy place. Therefore, I thought that these bright and cheery tea towels might be an excellent item to add to her Christmas basket. Rain Goose Textiles is a North Vancouver-based company that has just a lovely selection of linen products with beautiful designs. Also, I was very tempted by their Bodum covers and tea cozies.

Felted Hedgehogs: My Mom’s Kryptonite

Circle Craft Market Felted Hedgehog

My mom cannot resist a hedgehog. Over the years, I have bought her hedgehog mugs, dryer balls, cards, and I recently made her a hedgehog Christmas ornament. And, Yuki, who runs Honey Canada, taught me how to make it. If you visit her website, or attend one of her classes at Bird on a Wire, you’ll understand just how adorable a piece of felt can become. At the Circle Craft Market, I couldn’t pass up this new hedgehog decoration she just designed. Mom is going to love it.

The Best Deal at the Circle Craft Market

Circle Craft Market spoons

Again, as some of you know, I am a bargain hunter. I love a deal on something fabulous. So, when I saw these spoons for only five dollars each, I had to have them. Swirly Spoons is also a local Vancouver company and has lots more affordable utensils on their site.

Let’s Talk Food

Vendors at the Circle Craft Market are very generous with their food samples. You get to try everything from chocolate to Indian curry. There were so many delectable creations I would love to have bought, but this is what I came away with:

*So, that’s it! The market was a lot of fun, and all the local artisans have really inspired me to keep sewing, felting, and cooking. If you’re interested in reading about one of my past craft fair wins, click here.

Vancouver Maritime Museum’s Winning Exhibit

The Lost Fleet Exhibit

I recently won tickets to the Vancouver Maritime Museum’s The Lost Fleet exhibit. The exhibit focused on the treatment of Japanese immigrants and those of Japanese descent in Vancouver during the Second World War. It’s main emphasis was on the confiscation of nearly 1,200 Japanese-Canadian owned fishing boats by Canadian officials on the British Columbia coast, which were eventually sold off to canneries and other non-Japanese fishermen. It’s not a pleasant period in our history. However, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about this part of Vancouver’s past.

Japanese Internment in Vancouver

Now, I can only give the briefest overview about these events. Click here if you want to learn more. Basically, Vancouver’s Powell Street area once had a thriving Japanese community (Japanese-Canadians also lived in other parts of the province as well). After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese people in Vancouver were taken from their homes and placed in holding areas and internment camps. Holding areas included places like the livestock building at the Pacific National Exhibition where living conditions were very poor. Today, the Powell Street area only has remnants of the Japanese community. However, the yearly Powell Street Festival, helps to celebrate Japanese culture and the neighborhood as it once was.

Performances Liven Up the Vancouver Maritime Museum Exhibit

Vancouver Maritime Museum

The Vancouver Maritime Museum examined many aspects of the Japanese experience in Vancouver as part of their exhibit. What made it especially interesting, though, were the live performances. Actors read diary entries of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. They acted out roles like a Japanese ship captain, ordered to return to port, and a Canadian of Japanese descent asked to go to Japan.The exhibit also featured pottery and sound art, as well as artifacts and informative text about the period.

I also found it very interesting to visit the permanent collection, including the St. Roch vessel. It was especially lovely to go outside at sunset and see several vintage boats at the museum’s dock. Some rather strange objects were also on display inside the museum, such as a narwhal’s tusk.

A Tourist in My Own Town

Vancouver Maritime Museum

I’m rather ashamed to admit that I don’t know if I’ve ever been to this museum before. Yet, this brings home, again, why winning contests is awesome. You get the opportunity to go to places and do things you might not otherwise seek out. While traveling overseas is an amazing experience that I love, being a tourist in your own town can be fun too! So, many thanks to the Georgia Straight for making this adventure possible!

Flor de Caña Rum Party Prize

Flor de Caña: The Taste of Summer

I was fortunate enough to win entry for myself and three friends to the Hot Nica Nights Fire and Ice celebration. We arrived at the North Vancouver Shipyards and made our way to the outdoor venue. We could smell the burning tiki torches and hear the music long before we actually arrived at the Flor de Caña rum party.

When we did enter the outdoor venue, the first thing we noticed was the view. The blue sky and the blue inlet merging together, almost making

North Vancouver Inlet view

us forget we hadn’t suddenly taken a plane to a more exotic locale. I think I might have appreciated it even more, had I known that these beautiful summer skies would soon be replaced by a smoky haze.

 My Rum History

In any case, we were here primarily to try some Flor de Caña rum. This rum comes from Nicaragua, and has a 125-year heritage. Now, I’m going to be totally honest here. Prior to this event, I had never heard of this particular brand of rum. I tend to drink Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend and really enjoy it in various cocktails. However, I have tried other kinds of rum, including Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Havana Club, and Lamb’s. Also, I should mention that this was my first experience at a rum tasting too.

We each received two tickets at the door: one for a glass of the 12-year-old Flor de Caña and one for the 18-year-old. We could also have unlimited tastings of the seven-year-old rum, either straight or mixed.

Age Matters

Flor de Caña rum

I began by trying the 12-year-old rum on the rocks. It had a nice spicy, yet mellow flavor. I liked that it wasn’t overpowering and that I could enjoy it on its own.

Next, I went for a cocktail made with the seven-year-old. It also contained simple syrup, lemon juice, and hibiscus tea. Absolutely fabulous! Hands down, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, and I do claim some prior imbibing experience in the cocktail department! It had just the right amount of sweetness, which was key, so that I could enjoy the rum itself.

Finally, I tried the 18-year-old. That packed a powerful punch. Too much of a punch for me. At this point in the evening, one of my companions questioned whether we should be drinking rum straight at all. In his words, “What are we, pirates?” A difficult question indeed.

Will I Be Buying Flor de Caña?

Yes, I think so. At least, I’ll alternate between it and my Appleton’s. I’m not sure, given that I do drink rum only in cocktails, that I would spring for the 12-year-old, though. I feel like the seven-year-old definitely did everything I’d like a rum to do.

What I really want is the recipe for that hibiscus tea cocktail. Flor de Caña does have some great concoctions on their site, but my favorite libation is nowhere to be found. If you can track it down, my loyal readers, please leave a comment, send smoke signals, whatever you can to help me solve this truly first world problem.

Dutch Cheese For the Win!

What a Gouda Win It Was

Sorry, the pun was too much for me to resist. Yes, I won $50 of Dutch cheese from the Holland Shopping Centre! The win also conveniently occurred close to my open house party, so guests got to enjoy the following (see pic):

    • Pesto gouda: green and very delicious
    • Asparagus gouda: surprisingly good
    • Medium aged gouda: a classic, must-have
    • Goat’s milk gouda: a nice alternative for the lactose-sensitive
    • Smoked applewood cheddar: not Dutch, but delicious!
    • Tomato basil havarti: again, not Dutch, but still yummy!

      Holland Shopping Centre: Not Just Dutch Cheese

      If you haven’t been to the Holland Shopping Centre, I recommend you take a trip out to this New Westminster shop. It really has all things Dutch: salty and sweet licorice, croquettes,wooden shoes stroop waffles, tea towels, Heineken beer glasses, dishes, wooden shoes, and of course, Dutch cheese.

      Also, the day I went to pick up my winning cheese, I had one of their deli sandwiches. I was very overwhelmed by the huge choice of cheese. I ended up asking the clerk to slice what she thought was the tastiest Gouda and add it to my turkey sandwich.

      Connecting with My Roots

      One of the reasons I love visiting Holland Shopping Centre is it helps me to connect with my Dutch heritage. My grandfather came to Canada from The Netherlands when he was 18 years old, but I have several cousins who still live there. I’ve been to The Netherlands five times, and have been fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht, and several other cities over the years.

      My family, and the Dutch people in general, are very hospitable. You’ll experience what they call ‘gezellig‘. It’s this feeling of coziness, warmth, and a certain untranslatable feeling of oneness with the space you are in. I’ve felt it in Dutch bars the most, and I’m always happy to give recommendations as to where to visit!

      My Dutch Bucket List


      I would love to return to The Netherlands again soon, and there are two things I would especially love to do. The first is to see the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. It seems amazing that something so beautiful and fragile as a tulip can require such intricate processes to move it from one location to another.

      The second activity would be a walking tour of sorts. I want to see many of the original buildings that were the inspiration for the KLM houses. These little Delft houses are given to business travelers who fly KLM. Little Kingdom By the SeaWe received these two houses on our honeymoon flight home (even though we weren’t flying business class). Also, Little Kingdom By the Sea is a great resource for finding out all the stories behind the houses.


Tot ziens!

A Salute to Creativity and the Makie

My Makie Heritage

Makies, aka artists, crafters, and creative types, are amazing people. My mother is a potter and creates everything from bird baths to buttons to dinner sets out of clay. My grandmother painted, and I wake up daily to her artwork on my walls. Sewing, cartooning, and graphic design are what fuel my own creative sensibility. So, I was very happy to win a prize from another makie, Dipsy Doodle Designz.

Art and Upcycling

My prize from this Surrey-based crafting business consisted of a compact, paper weight, magnet, and two prints. In keeping with the hipster trend of the moment, the entire prize is succulent-themed.

succulent cactus

However, what I’d like to focus on is the paper canvas for these prints: old dictionary pages. I’m a big fan of this kind of upcycling. Vintage encyclopedias, dictionaries, trashy novels, and more can all be transformed into something beautiful. Here are some great ideas if you’d like to try your hand at book upcycling.

The Olde Farmhouse Market

Dipsy Doodle Designz was one of the exhibitors at The Olde Farmhouse Market. It was through this market’s Facebook contest that I won this prize. Plenty of upcycling is on display at the market, as well as, new items, and original, intact vintage pieces. However, I especially love finding new uses for previously loved items. For example, I have my vinyl collection in a Valley Canadian Apples box and stash my coupons in a Player’s cigarette tin.

By choosing vintage and upcycled, items I’m rejecting the disposable and over-consuming mindset of today’s culture. Simply put, we have too much stuff. Thus, if we can try to get the most out of what we already, rather than continually producing new things, I think we’ll be moving in the right direction.

My Winning Streak

Well, this is my second prize of the year, so I’m off to a great start!  I’ve also already won a third prize, but I will tell you more about that one once I pick it up and taste it (that’s the teaser for you!).

We Fell in Love With SFU

On January 1st of this year, we went home. We moved to UniverCity at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The university really is like a home to Ryan and I. Not only are we SFU grads, but we both worked for the university, and most importantly, met one another there.

This connection with the university and our recent move inspired me to submit our story to the “We Fell in Love at SFU” contest launched by the university’s alumni association. In fact, I didn’t actually know there was a contest connected with the call for submissions. I just wanted to share our experience.

My SFU Story

Well, it turns out there was and we won an amazing prize package, which I will describe in detail later. However, the focus of this post is on our love for SFU itself.

I attended SFU from 1994 to 1997. Every time I stepped on campus, I took a deep breath. Anyone who has spent time on top of a mountain knows what I’m talking about. It’s so refreshing, and the view never disappoints. Also, the smallness of the campus always appealed to me. It never took very long to get anywhere and there were always opportunities to meet people outside of your own faculty.

Two Amazing Instructors

My major was English and my minor was political science. I had some great instructors. A couple in particular have always stuck with me. Dr. Sheila Roberts taught Medieval Literature classes. She began her lectures by playing music that had a connection to the works we were studying. In one of her tutorials, she brought in a medieval feast she’d made, and I remember being so impressed that she’d baked authentic medieval bread! Sheila always knew how to create a classroom atmosphere that was conducive to learning and stimulating to the imagination.

Dr. Jerry Zaslove taught a course focused on the works of Franz Kafka and stories inspired by him. In my early 20s, Kafka made a huge impression on me. I don’t think any work of literature influenced me as much as The Trial. What Jerry did when teaching Kafka’s powerful novels and short stories was encourage us to engage in critical thinking, and discuss contentious ideas with one another in a respectful way. To this day, I still keep the “Team Kafka” button he had made for each of us.

I have other fond memories of my time at SFU too. Sitting by the pond, feeling the sun on my face as I studied for exams; going to the pub basement and getting a mammoth vegetarian sandwich for only $2; watching foreign films at Images Theatre with friends. Not surprisingly, the list of reminiscences is long, and sometimes I wish I could relive those years all over again.

Ryan’s SFU Story

SFU Sweatshirt
Ryan Wears His Winning SFU Sweatshirt

Ryan wanted to share some thoughts about his time at SFU too, so I present them here:

SFU was where I met some of my best friends and learned vital skills, and a lot of that happened in the Computing Science Student Society’s (CSSS’) common room. That narrow, cramped space, still in use today, had a video terminal you could check email on, a cheap pop machine, and some of the smartest people I have ever met. The conversations I had there were as educational as most of my courses. In an even odder turn of events, I was briefly the president of the society.

Our SFU Prize Package

SFU alumni prize box
SFU Prize Box

So, it’s time to talk about the fabulous prize package! The $150 box of delights included:

  • Two bags
  • Two sweatshirts
  • One USB
  • One sweatshirt blanket
  • Two glass tumblers
  • One very nice card from the alumni association

Thank you, alumni association, we are loving everything and are so happy to be back at SFU!

Pomme Natural Market Ladies Night Win

Why Free Food is Awesome

I have a special fondness for winning free food. Aside from cold, hard cash, I think food is the most useful kind of prize. I’m also a big fan of consumables at the moment. After 15 years in the same house, we’re moving. Thus, the less we have to box and cart with us, the better.

Pomme Natural Market

It was especially delightful that the free food in question came from Pomme Natural Market via their Ladies Night on October 21st. Pomme is an amazing place. It is the anti-supermarket. The store is packed full of out-of-the-ordinary yumminess in a manageable space. I’m often looking for dairy-free food and healthy carbs and Pomme offers lots of options. My mother and my friend Anne, who came with me to Ladies Night, like Pomme’s selection of vegetarian products.

Ladies Night

Ladies Night was a lot of fun. I drove in after a long day’s work downtown, happy for the change of scene. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. So many ladies in one space! However, Anne and I made our way around the store sampling and playing various games, at which she excelled and I performed rather badly at. As usual, I also enjoyed my Pomme shopping trip and taking advantage of the 10% discount that evening.

The Find of the Night
Wild Hibiscus in Syrup
Wild Hibiscus in Syrup

So, as I mentioned, there was some serious sampling going on at Pomme’s Ladies Night. I was attracted to one particular sampling table, as I saw a large crowd around it and heard the lady offering up the samples saying in a hushed tone, “These are from Australia.” It was if she was presenting the first Martian food ever to grace planet Earth! That being said, the wild hibiscus flowers in syrup stuffed with goat cheese were so delectable. Definitely has the wow factor necessary for Christmas entertaining.

Winning Update

Surprisingly, 2016 is starting to look better in terms of winning now! I found out about this prize the day after my Ghost Train win. The tickets for the event were only $10 each, but just look at what was in my swag bag! Strictly speaking, I should value this prize at $20, but I am tempted to up it a little. Ah, well, I’ll think about it at year end. Stayed tuned.

Winning My Way onto The Ghost Train

A Change of Scene

It’s amazing how transformative darkness can be. A familiar place suddenly becomes mysterious. Add some colourful lights, spooky figures, and a mariachi band and you’re celebrating the Day of the Dead on a cool October night in Stanley Park.

Thanks to the Westender, my friends and I got to have just such an experience on Tuesday, October 11th. We were given the VIP treatment, complete with free VIP access to the Ghost Train, a free trip to the Spooky Barn, and warm cups of hot chocolate.

The Ghost Train

If you’re after jump-out-of-your-seat scares, the Ghost Train in Stanley Park is not for you. It states clearly on their website that this is a family-friendly activity. However, on the 14-minute ride I did have a good time. You travel by a series of scenes, and performers act out the part of everything from cockroaches to Day of the Dead puppets.

Day of the Dead Puppets at the Stanley Park Ghost Train
Day of the Dead Puppets

Music helps to set the mood, which is at times eerie, but mostly rather pleasant. Sitting on a cute train watching the scenes as I go by with my friends really is a rather wonderful way to spend a Tuesday night.

The Spooky Barn

After the train ride, we checked out a few other things, including the Haunted Maze, exhibits by the Stanley Park Ecological Society, and the pumpkin patch, but what I enjoyed most was the Spooky Barn.

The Spooky Barn at the Stanley Park Ghost Train
The Spooky Barn

Inside, there’s a series of peep holes. Take a look through and you’ll see art that depicts the Seven Stages of Man from William Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It.

Skeleton Art
Peek-a-Boo Art

I absolutely loved it.


The artwork also seemed inspired by Edward Gorey, which fans of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! will be sure to recognize. The Barn also has a dance floor for those inclined to get down to the mariachi music.

Looking back on this Tuesday night, I can’t help but smile. It made me happy with its lighthearted injection of spookiness, and took me out of the house and into the night with my friends. Always a great place to be.

Winnings Update

I received four VIP passes to the Stanley Park Ghost Train and Spooky Barn. These were worth $71.60. We also received free hot chocolate, so I feel good about valuing this prize at $75. This is only my second win of 2016, but it’s not my last! The very next day