Spring in Vancouver
Whistler – Ski Outings from January – May (!)
Kauai Island, Hawaii
Vancouver Island, Yellowpoint
Grape picking in Okanagan Falls
Vancouver Island, Victoria, Butchards Gardens
Summer in Vancouver
and a sort of life-changing decision…
I’m sure you know that state when you’re debating a decision with yourself, weighing up rational arguments and trying make sense of the completely irrational emotions sabotaging your attempt to actually reach a conclusion. It’s like no matter how hard you try to focus, discipline yourself and try to get to the bottom of it, it keeps slipping through your fingers. Before you know it, a state of confusion and frustration sets in – dead end – you can’t force it.
What this has to do with my trip to the oldest, most western island of Hawaii? Well, I purposefully decided to give myself a whole week in paradise not only to have a change of scenery, rejuvenate, explore, but also to allow myself all this time, to solely find the answer to one question that’s persistently been popping up over the last weeks: do I want to stay/return/move to Vancouver permanently?
So, there I was on the ‘Garden Island’ driving around in my ship of a rental car, going 25 miles per hour through breathtakingly beautiful greenery, accompanied by the local reggae music radio station, going somewhere but not really…the dead poultry on the road added to this almost surreal experience, and I started to run a daily toll (I know, quite morbid). I alternated the days discovering the beaches, waterfalls or walking the ever botanically different trails with glorious views into the valleys. Besides giving each day a ‘theme’ (to do with my question) wherever I went, I brought my ink pens as well as notebook along, giving me the opportunity to capture absolutely all, i.e. thoughts & emotions.
This process and methodology suited me perfectly, and it is therefore not surprising that by the end of my stay, I had reached a crystal clear answer: Vancouver it is
& hell yeah, it scared the living daylights out of me!
I mean, it’s half across the world from Zurich, where my entire family and lots of friends live. It means giving up my bijou of a flat, and of course, figuring out everything about the immigration process. All this to throw myself into the unknown, by myself, not knowing how/what/when etc.
That’s probably why it took so long to write this blog entry, as I first had to sort through all this and become clear, why I want to do this and what the plan(s) are. Luckily, I’m a coach! So, walking my own talk, I asked myself all the questions that I would a client and became aware of unproductive beliefs as well as automatic emotional reactions that were no fun…and therefore ordered myself a couple of loads of “Emotional Laundry”. The detergent was microwave popcorn and the background music were the screeching roosters (they have taken over the island and maybe they’ll soon be given a holy status like the cows in India 🙂
Anyway, guess what – it worked.
The conviction that “this is now the right thing for me to do” remained, bizarrely strengthened by lots of breaching whales that I had the luck to watch 😉 and even after landing back in Vancouver.
What it means? It means that I want to work in the service of the performing arts world, its artists, entrepreneurs, project leaders, support staff, educators, sponsors – true to my motto: the art of making art is putting it together…
p.s. you find my drawings from that week in the Doodle Art section.
sitting here on my couch in Vancouver with the sun slowly setting on the last day of the year, it feels like I had just been dropped of by Rudolph with his shiny nose. I’m not entirely sure if the last month actually happened or if it was one long glittery dream and my mind is playing tricks on me. Yet, I can actually recite the lyrics and hum the tunes of more Christmas carols than I was ever able to as well as knowing the answers to questions, that were definitely not in my “repertoire”, e.g. the name of James Stewart’s guardian angle in the film ‘It’s a wonderful life’!
Maybe it is not that important to label or tell what factually happened (nobody wants to write or read that – least me!). However, what I do feel compelled to share is my tale of how I became witness and part of some true Christmas spirit moments.
Put on the kettle, snuggle up on the sofa with your favorite blanket…
As once upon a time, in a far away land – in the UK to be specific – a young Canadian and Swiss (both very pretty 🙂 became friends while singing for a small amateur opera company in North London. Little did they know that ten years down the line, after having lost contact for over a decade, they would re-connect on Vancouver Island where the talented Canadian had created a Christmas Spectacular. A show where professional singers and dancers entrance the audience with music from a wide variety of genres (musical, country, pop, jazz, etc.) accompanied by a versatile small band with more costume changes that you can count! The program is interwoven with humorous readings, a Christmas quiz and of course, an audience carol sing-along 🙂
So, how is this different to any other show? you might ask…well, imagine this:
a community hall outside a 80’000 soul city, on a Monday morning early in December. Trucks with horse trailers in tow have just pulled up. About 30 Santa Carpenters and Elves (all friends and family) get busy with unloading trees, wreathes, sleighs, wooden market stand, ribbons, bows, curtains and lights…and then more lights…within a day the hall becomes the most charming Christmas Wonderland, where rehearsals happen alongside the fork lift beeping, hammering, chatter, children running around and over a pic-nic lunch the latest stories are exchanged.
And then…finally, everything is ready (or almost 😉 and 250 people get transported each show to another world when entering this now magical place, greeted warmly by Santa’s helpers. You discover the little market area where Santa stands with some of his deer and getting engulfed by the smell of the mince pies and punch, while Bing Crosby is dreaming about a white Christmas in the background. The Christmas decoration and all the lights let you go back into your own childhood, when you couldn’t wait to discover that one present underneath the tree that had your name on it.
I had the honor of being the stage & light elf (my elf name: Sparkle Garland), and I was charmed by every single performance by the artists, a crew colleague, a volunteer or a member of the audience – or all of the above 🙂 I watched young and old having a fabulous time, creating an atmosphere you want to be in on a daily basis. The generosity of heart, support, humor, passion, professionalism, team spirit, countless hours of work by everyone who was involved left me with a smile I just couldn’t shake off. That was when I realized and got the distinct feeling that this is what Christmas IS all about…
Thank you and congratulations to Katy, who created with her family (Dave, Annette, Peter, Tim) including their beautiful young sons (Nicholas & Matthew) a Christmas experience we all want to be part of…
if you want to sign up as a Magic Sponsor, Christmas Carpenter or Special Elf, go to: http://www.yellowpointchristmasspectacular.ca/ and drop Katy a line!
some traditional Swiss Christmas feelings!
250g unsalted (!) butter (room temperature)
225g sugar (white or mixture with brown)
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs from happy hens (room temperature)
1 organically grown lemon (i.e. not sprayed with funny stuff)
1 egg yolk diluted with water to brush the cookies
& of course cookie cutters and tin box
Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl (approx. 10 minutes), then add the salt. Add the egg (one by one) and continue beating until the mixture turns lighter in color.
Add the zest of the lemon and the flour and mold it with a hard spatula or hands to an even dough ball. Put it covered or wrapped in cling film into fridge overnight (yes, that means you have to plan when you want to bake Christmas cookies 🙂
Next day or whenever you are baking:
Take the dough out of the fridge at least 15 minutes before rolling it out. Roll it out on flour or non-stick surface (e.g. baking paper) approx. 5-8mm thick. Use your cookie cutters and put them on a with baking paper covered flat tin. Brush them with the diluted egg yolk and bake in the pre-heated oven on 180-200d C. for approx. 10 minutes (check early enough until you know your oven well). Take them off and let them cool on a grille.
Keep your cookies in a air-tight tin box – then they last the whole month of December while maintaining their yummy quality…
and other Halloween creatures…
When I grew up (not going to mention when that was), my parents gave us kids a wonderful comic book, called “The Witch’s Handbook”. It is a terrific, tongue-in-cheek guide for any aspiring witch (which I was of course, being the only one that actually WANTED the be the witch in the school play 😉 I was so taken with it that it even inspired me to copy / draw the witch on the cover on to our black board, enlarged to live size, in a 6th grade assignment (great success)…and I sourced a paperback version last year in the UK, had it shipped to Switzerland, and from all my books, it became one of the two that I chose to bring with me to Vancouver…
Besides lots of food recipes for Halloween (→ see my recipe section) and other fun craft stuff, e.g. skull & bat tea cozies, knitted skull cap etc., it features important insights about a witch’s daily routines, preferred housing as well as pet companions. You might ask, where I’m going with this…well, it seems that I have envisaged this (unknowingly, over years) to such an extent that the universe has finally given in and delivered it (although it did resist for about 25 years). There I was in my cute flat underneath the roof, where the wind blows through the cracks of the windows, the walls and lamps shake when someone on the lower floors walk around, sitting at my office/dining/one table, when I suddenly heard a “miau-growl” next to me.
Needless to say that I almost jumped out of my skin, whereas the “tall” dark stranger just jumped on to my lap, purring and obviously wanted some attention, before taking up his observation position on the table! I named him Ron, and it seems that he has adopted me (as he took possession of my bed), appearing whenever he feels like it. Ron has completed the circle of interesting creatures surrounding me, including the spider(s) everywhere, the squirrel on the roof (I had a true E.T. encounter moment with that – I was screaming & the poor thing must have been too), and the two crows stationed in the trees lining my avenue.
Did you know that there is a flock of approx. 6’000 crows that spend their days spread all over Vancouver, only to return at dusk to Burnaby (a suburb of Vancouver)? It is quite a sight when they gather in my neighboring street, on some small trees and in a very orderly, organised fashion, all crows from the area start gathering. It is believed that the Burnaby roost has been there since the 1970s, and they are more like us than we might believe. They mate for life (not like us 😉 and apparently they can communicate with each other (again not like us 😉 Their offspring support the parents to raise younger siblings and live in loose family groups with complex social structures (obviously, how otherwise do they know when to pre-gather, fly to/from Burnaby etc). In short, we can learn a lot from them! If you are in Vancouver I can only recommend to take the time one day and watch the spectacular…
As for me, I cherish all my companions (the only one missing now is an owl, I guess) and ask you this, what is the morale of this story?
Be very careful & SPECIFIC what you wish for, the universe delivers
(following its own timing 😉
Happy Halloween everyone!
Credits & Reference: The picture of the crow is by Gerry Kahrmann and the insight about the crows of Burnaby comes from the online version of The Province.
(this is so easy, yet what you definitely need is a good knife or an ax – that’s right – not to scare some kids off, but to tackle the pumpkin)
1x pumpkin (preferably eatable – except you want to get rid of your guests)
1x onion (red or yellow – Europeans, you might need 2, as the sizes here do differ)
– vegetable broth (ideally without glutamate, yeast or sugar) depending on the amount of pumpkin
– cream (NOT sweetened or other funny business)
Optional: 3-4 carrots, ginger, chili-pepper
Get a big enough pan, delegate the pumpkin peeling, cutting, de-seeding to someone strong & willing 🙂 you can peel & cut the onion in the meantime (trust me you will prefer the few tears to the fight with the pumpkin).
Fry the thinly cut onion in some oil first, then add the pumpkin chunks, stir/fry for some minutes, before “extinguishing” with the vegetable broth. Add the optional ingredients if you want. Let it all cook on low heat, until you can squash the pumpkin with the ladle easily (takes approx. 1 hour maybe?). Take off the heat, let it cool down a little and either use a blender or hand held mixer pole to liquidize.
Heat it up again, add as much cream as you like and serve with roasted pumpkin seeds and/or add some pumpkin seed oil – Done.
Note: make sure you invite enough guests, or freeze the rest, or don’t add any spices and use the pure pumpkin mush as baby food.
(also very easy – one of my FAVORITES)
1kg of apples (or 4 giant apples like they sell them here, see picture below)
Important: the type has to be good for cooking (hard, acidic etc.), forget about sweet types or Granny Smith – terrible
Fresh lemon juice (from real lemons, squeezed by yourself)
Lots of cinnamon & some vanilla sugar or extract
Optional: fresh cranberries, fresh ginger, Cardamom
Take a big enough pan, put approx. 2 cm of water in it. Cut the apples in medium-sized chunks (you can peel them if you prefer or the apples are “waxed” – Europeans, you are lucky there, as they don’t want to make the apples look shiny). Drizzle some lime juice over the apple pieces to prevent that they turn brown. Add the cinnamon and vanilla as well as any other optional items you like.
Cover the pan, let it cook/simmer (approx. 1 hour maybe?) until you can squash the apples easily with the ladle. That’s for me where it’s done, you might prefer to put it into the blender or take a hand mixer to it, or put it through a strainer…feel free.
Note: you can make a big quantity and keep it in the fridge pretty much for forever, or freeze it or again – don’t add any spices and use it as baby food.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Of course, they come from my stories or have been introduced to me here in Vancouver. Even if you have no baking or cooking background – I promise you will succeed with these!
(from my story with Abigail Patmore my stove & oven)
150g butter (non-salted, soft, i.e. take out of the fridge early)
250g sugar (white)
3 eggs (from happy hens not cold, i.e. take out of the fridge early)
150g dark chocolate (naturally, ideally from Switzerland)
150g flour (if you have the funds, get unbleached, organic
-> be prepared for the price shock that will hit you)
1 tip of a knife backing powder
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or the equivalent of vanilla extract
(please not the fake stuff)
Put the oven on and preheat for 180d Celsius or 375d Fahrenheit, check that you have a oven tin/tray and prepare/line it with baking paper.
Set the chocolate in a “bain-marie” (one small pot with the broken chocolate placed into a bigger pot with approx. 2cm of water in it), and melt it on medium stove temperature.
While the chocolate is melting, mix butter, sugar and eggs well (I suggest with a mixer – otherwise it will turn into quite an arm muscle exercise) until it is “fluffy” and lighter in color than at the beginning.
Add the melted chocolate and the rest (flour, backing powder, salt, vanilla) and stir with a ladle (not with the mixer) to form a smooth, sticky dough.
Put the dough on the prepared baking tin and place in your by now heated oven. Set the alarm for 15-20 minutes. Rule of thumb, rather take them out a little early that they don’t turn into dust brownies…
p.s. you can add nuts of course
MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT
(no oven needed – less ingredients than this, doesn’t exist)
3 eggs (very fresh & even happier hens than before)
100g dark, excellent chocolate
Melt the chocolate as explained above in a bain-marie.
Separate your happy eggs, the yolks in one, the egg whites into another bowls. If you don’t know how to do this properly – you find instructions on You Tube or just take a tea sieve 🙂
Mix the melted chocolate with the yolks by using a whisk, i.e. do it manually.
Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them to a stiff snow with the hand mixer (otherwise, you will be there for hours). To check if ready: turn your bowl upside down – if it stays – well done.
Fold the egg snow under the chocolate mixture. Note: under no circumstances use a whisk or mixer for this! Use a hard plastic spatula and in a what seems painstaking slow motion, FOLD…until it becomes a light, still fluffy, not too liquid, even mixture.
Fill into 4 glasses, cover with cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
p.s. it is excellent with freshly (unsweetened, real) whipped cream
p.p.s. the dinner the precedes this dessert should be light in nature
and notice how all those positive emotions start to kick-in 🙂
Apologies for everyone who measures in cups, ounces etc…there will be more where I will balance it out – promise!
There I was on day 3, strolling on Cypress street towards an empty garden chair in the communal gardens (built on an old railway track, i.e. very singer/songwriter atmosphere), to ponder on the flats that I had just seen. Should I go for the bigger, more expensive one, which was not as cute, or for the one-bedroom under the roof? In the middle of that internal discussion, appeared an elderly lady in a vivid floral dress, wearing an enormous straw hat and underneath a quite desperate expression (covered in a truly thick layer of white suntan lotion). I didn’t think anything of it, until she started to purposefully stride towards me, asking if I had a phone. Honestly, my first thought was that it must be one of those schemes where they try to steal your phone in a creative way!
It turned out however, that she had locked herself out of her car, and wanted me to call road side assistance, so they could break it open. Of course, I felt for her, as that was definitely something that could happen to me (every day in fact, if I had a car). Standing there underneath the bushes, we made introductions and changed to speaking Spanish (way out of practice!). I learnt that she had been living in Vancouver the past 23 years, having had her patch in the communal garden about the same amount of time. Soon the conversation turned to her roses, which were attacked by some evil fungus (imagine wild hand gestures with shovel) and the remedies that she had already tried: water with vinegar, water with oil, water with sugar…honestly, I’m not making this up – I tried so hard not to laugh, as those poor roses must have felt like the next salad in the making…I promised to get my mother’s advice and would meet her back at Cypress street whenever I had news. While I was cobbling my words together in Spanish, she started chopping and plucking all sorts of leaves and herbs out of her wonderfully chaotic green bed as a ‘thank you’…I left with a big smile on my face, a warm feeling in my chest and an incredibly rich smelling bouquet, knowing that I had come to the right city 🙂
p.s. I went for the smaller flat under the roof..but more about the joy of moving later…
and anyway, you don’t have to write them. I’ll do that.
So, if you want to join me on this ride – Welcome, I feel honored!
Do leave your comments – I love to hear from you.
A “BEE in BC” comes from my initials and BC is of course British Columbia, the province in West Canada, where Vancouver is located.
(my vintage stove & oven)
Have you ever tried to bake something, i.e. go into that wonderful, meditative state / flow where you are fascinated by the color and texture of the ingredients, the sound of the mixer, in happy anticipation of the transformation that will take place in the oven, the smell that will fill your kitchen, the exquisite sensation that will take over when tasting it when it is still warm?
I have always claimed that it is like a mediation and now, reading this, I understand that it involves everything – for all my fellow coaches out there – a complete V (visual) A (audio) K (kinetics) O (olfactory) G (gustatory) experience!
In short – magic 🙂
You can imagine my excitement when I first saw this oven in my apartment – it definitely dates from another time in history…and the size of it – quite fascinating – you can easily fit a whole turkey or cow in there…coming from Switzerland this IS special.
Thinking that I better start out with a tested, family recipe, i.e. brownies – where in theory nothing can go wrong – I happily broke in my hand mixer, spatula, bowls, baking tin and switched on the oven to preheat. So far so good. I was proud that I had even bought a thermometer, as I’m not at all familiar with the heating levels of 1-5. Little did I know…
When I suddenly noticed a heat wave coming from the stove, I realized that there is actually a hole (!) in the left-front burner. The temperature of the oven being way too high – I just managed to rescue my spatula, before melting, and noticing that the oven light as well as timer/clock etc. must have gone into retirement long time ago. When I put the brownie tin into the oven (with the temperature being just right), I thought I had managed the baptism of fire. Normally, when your “thing” is in the oven – you take a break – embrace patience and go off doing something else.
This time it was different. When I checked 15 minutes later, I noticed with horror that the temperature had dropped completely and my brownies looked like a dark glue…I turned the heat back up and wanted to take them out a wee bit later. Not a tricky action per se: put oven mittens on, open oven, take out tin, close oven. Well a) my brownies were almost black – heat had climbed to volcanic levels again, b) I dropped one of the mittens in the oven – small fire going on and c) I burnt myself on the oven door.
At that point I had to laugh so hard, as those were the sorriest looking brownies I have ever made, my beautiful red mittens disheveled after the first use, me literally burnt and the temperature of my kitchen/living room resembled a sauna with me being under the roof and the outside Summer weather doing its part 🙂
Obviously to all of you that are following Downton Abbey, you understand that I had to christen my oven/stove in that moment “Abigail Patmore” as I am convinced she is a great-grand niece of the famous manor cook!
p.s. Downton Abbey season 5 is about to start in a couple of days and for that I shall be making a mousse au chocolat (no oven required)