Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Merry Steveston Christmas to you

Call me old-fashioned but nothing beats traditional evergreens for making any building more festive at Christmas.

Chains, wreaths, and garlands made of garden trimmings can perk up even the simplest facades.

In my meanderings through the village, three store fronts impressed me most with their classic lines and rich display of the season's colours - sumptuous greens, regal silver, the muted red of velvet bows, and the highly polished red of bells and berries - interwoven with softly glowing LED lights.

The morning I took these photos was bitter cold. My fingers were numb even before I (reluctantly) pulled them out of my gloves to push the shutter button. I hope they bring you joy and that incomparable Christmas feeling.

Prickly Pear Garden Centre with cascades of leaves

Heringer's clock - wrapped in a cloak of winter greens

Heringer's Fine Meats' windows sporting the traditional Christmas look

Steveston WineMakers looking cozy and inviting

The Christmas cake - more than just fruits

In the last blog, we obsessed about Christmas cookies. This time, we will delve into their heftier cousin, the Christmas cake.

The Christmas cake had a rather humble beginning as the plum porridge. Made with cheap ingredients, its purpose was purely utilitarian - to coat the stomach after a day of fasting.

In the 16th century, with the addition of butter, wheat flour, honey, and eggs, the plum porridge was upgraded to the boiled plum cake. Of course, wealthier families had the luxury of taking this cake up another notch. They added marzipan, dried seasonal fruits, and spices - in effect, introducing the Christmas cake as we know it today to the world. Well, to the richer circles anyhow.

Today, the Christmas cake is typically a fruitcake that reflects local ingredients and preferences:

*The Japanese Christmas cake is a simple sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, and decorated with chocolates, strawberries, or other fruits

*The Filipinos mixed macerated nuts and fruits into their Christmas pound cake and soak it with brandy or rum

*The Germans' Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen is still a traditional fruitcake

*The French popularized the Buche de Noel, or the Christmas log, a thinly rolled sponge cake filled with jam and coated with butter cream icing, meringue, or marzipan

*The Scots, not to be outdone, are well known for their Whisky Dundee; I think you can guess what is the critical ingredient in this national treasure

However, regardless of their colour, texture, weight, and moisture content, and whether they are frosted, glazed, dusted with icing sugar, and doused with brandy, sherry, or whiskey - or not - Christmas cakes are invariably made in advance and served to guests at this time of year.

I think that's ample Christmas cake trivia to digest for now. Suffice it to say that, like the Christmas cake, we have also evolved into much more sophisticated beings that favour subtler tastes and complex yet delicately balanced infusion of flavours. And we also demand creations that please our eyes as much as our palates.

Here's a prime example of what would be considered a fine modern day Christmas cake created by Steveston's own Erlinda Jalandoon of Picture Your Cake:

Photo courtesy of Erlinda Jalandoon
of Picture Your Cake

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas cookies - more than just sugar and spice

Perhaps more than Santa, turkey dinner, knitted stockings, and softly glowing LED lights, nothing sets the holiday cheer afire in me like Christmas cookies.

They sit so snugly in your hand, sending off whiffs of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, or peppermint. Just one bite can transport you heavenward like Handel's Messiah. I'm not sure what happens at the molecular level but I'm sure the combination of sugar, spices, flour, and butter can alter the circuitry in your brain and simultaneously sizzle all its pleasure centres. You can't eat a Christmas cookie and not feel good will towards men. It's just that potent.

The history of cookies dates back to Medieval Europe. With sugar once selling for the equivalent of $100 per pound, and other essential ingredients such as flour considered expensive, cookies were rare treats and baked to mark significant Western celebrations. By 1500, cookies have spread all through Europe, with each country developing its own signature version of these crispy small cakes.

The Germans, for example, offer us their famous buttery Spritz cookies and Lebkuchen or gingerbread cookies. The Swedes are into spicy delights, which is what you would experience when biting into Pepparkakor. If you have a hyper-developed sense of smell, you might prefer the Norwegian Krumkake, which is a thin lemon and cardamon-scented wafer. But it was the Dutch, whose word Koeptje was the ancestor of our word "cookie," who brought the earliest Christmas cookies to the new world in the early 1600's. You gotta love them!

Here in Steveston, we have creative individuals who make it their business to bake fresh cookies to delight your senses. I have asked them to submit their most festive creations and greetings to help you embrace the most gastronomically-centred season of the year. Feast your eyes on these beauties and get inspired to bake your own batch. Here's happy nibbling to you!

Photos courtesy of Heidi Thorsteinson
Heidi wishes to extend to you and your families the best of happiness, health, peace,and prosperity during the holidays and throughout 2010. Thank you for your continued support.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Ellis
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Lisa at A Cake WIsh! Thank you for all your business!

Photos courtesy of Mika Livingston
The Steveston Cookie Company
Andrew and Mika Livingston of the Steveston Cookie Company wish everyone a deliciously wonderful holiday season! Thanks for a great 2009!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Community service brings Sue Girling many rewards

How can you tell that volunteering is in your blood?

When you do it for 25 years in Steveston and still get a sense of joy from serving your community.

Such is the case with Sue Girling, who decided to trod down this path after graduating from high school - just for fun. This sense of fun has sustained her as a member of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society where she served on the Board of Directors and sat on various committees. It has also swept her to the peak of her volunteer career when, in 2002, she was elected as the chairperson of this organization. Along the way, Sue also shared her time with the International order of Job’s Daughters on the Bethel Guardian Council, Brownies and Girl Guides, Richmond Visitor Industry Development Board, Steveston Business Association, Gun Lake Ratepayers Association, Steveston Brochure Committee, BC Packers Advisory Council, and the Richmond Museum Society.

Sue Girling and Mayor Malcolm Brody presenting a gift from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society to Crown Princess Masako of Japan on her visit to the Cannery in 2004 during Sue's term as Chair.

But Sue is more than the sum of her years of community work. She is also a mother, a devoted wife of 35 years, a home-based business owner for 25 years, and an active promoter of Steveston to locals and tourists alike.

"I have worked for myself for over 25 years. My husband Norris and I started a home-based business that provided computer consulting, desktop publishing, and image setting services. To parallel and enhance some of my volunteering, I have published The Steveston Villager Business Directory for the past 22 years. I also own the community website that features the Historic Village of Steveston as a community " explains Sue.

Having a home business has allowed Sue to raise two daughters, Lesley and Ashley, without the aid of day care and given the Girlings considerable freedom to travel and spend time at the family cottage at Gun Lake -- blessings for which she feels truly thankful.

"Steveston has provided me with self employment and sense of community like none other. I have been able to bring up two wonderful daughters and still be home for them after school. They have been brought up in a small town within a city, by wonderful caring businesses and community groups, and they would live nowhere else," she adds.

Sue's husband Norris retired last year and she considers herself semi-retired though still very much at the helm of her home-based enterprise. Sue is enjoying spending lots of quality time with her husband and, yes, heeding the occasional call for volunteers in her favourite community.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa arrives in Steveston

Christmas officially arrived in Steveston on December 5th. And who better to usher in the jolliest time of the year than Santa himself.

Throngs of parents wheeling little ones in buggies converged on Steveston Landing. To be sure, some were there to buy fresh fish off the boats. But most of them were there for one reason only - to capture Santa in the flesh. Perhaps bending over their delighted children.

A crush of Santa's fans awaiting his arrival

Stevestonites were encouraged to dress in red that day as a show of support for the 2010 Winter Olympics. A sprinkling of community-spirited individuals did just that. Which was not an entirely bad thing as, a few times, I overheard younger children getting unnecessarily worked up when they caught sight of flashes of red in the crowd - only to be told that they were mistaken. Imagine how agitated and overwhelmed they would have been had everyone shown up in Santa's colour.

Two of the people who showed up in red

A little past 2:00 PM, Santa arrived at the dock, flanked by two RCMP officers wearing the Red Serge. The guest of honour trudged his way up the gangplank, advanced slowly across the boardwalk, and wound his way towards the Gulf of Georgia Cannery - all the while waving his bells and roaring out his ho-ho-ho.

Santa being escorted by two RCMP officers

It was heartening to notice how Santa's popularity has not diminished over the years. In fact, judging from the cameras thrust before him and pleas for "just one more shot," I would say that Santa could rival any A-List star as he threaded his way past the mob of paparazzi - with poise and good humour.

Santa - never too busy to smile for the camera

There were other planned festivities around Steveston that day, such as photo ops with Santa at the cannery, illuminating the Sequoia tree outside in red lights, and taking a horse-drawn carriage ride around the village.

The long line anticipating Santa's arrival at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery

A little tour around the village - just the thing to end a perfect day

Monday, November 30, 2009

Steveston Christmas Craft Fair

It was Saturday, November 28th. I entered Steveston Community Centre's parking lot with great trepidation. The annual Christmas craft fair was in progress. And, as always, a great number of eager shoppers had beat me to it.

Why would browsing through a room full of lovingly crafted creations inspire fear in me, you say?

Probably because I was entering the Net Shed not as a shopper, but as a blogger. Instead of a bag, I had a camera slung over my shoulder. Plus a few hastily printed business cards. My plan was to take photos of some of the crafters and their products for my Steveston blog, which features events and people around the village.

Alas, I was beset by doubts. What if the crafters said "no"? What if they grew hostile and kicked me out the door? What if they worried about having their ideas stolen? What if ...

To make matters worse, it was strictly wall-to-wall people in the cavernous building. How could I get close enough to the persons sitting behind those tables laden with rows upon rows of treasures? I spent at least half an hour meandering up and down the aisles before summoning up enough courage to identify myself to a slim blonde. She graciously agreed to have her photo taken and helpfully pointed out a nearby table where I would most likely be just as lucky. From then on, it was like pushing a set of dominos down as one vendor after another gave me the nod. I grew bolder and began to really enjoy chatting them up.

As I walked away from the fair, I was struck by the talent of the Christmas craft fair participants. But, more importantly, I was impressed with their friendliness, courteousness, contagious enthusiasm, and generosity - with their time and creative ideas.

This blog entry is dedicated to all of you who took the time to pose and smile for me!

Sandy Bahrich - Firefly Notes
Sandy’s nostalgic magnets drew me to her table. Of course, anything with the Eiffel Tower stamped on it would, because I absolutely worship the City of Light. Sandy does more than magnets, however. Check out her site and be amazed.

Andie Froese - Andie's Artefacts
The first thing I noticed about Andie was her friendliness. The second was her obsession with hieroglyphics. The third thing was that she made great jewelry. Hm, a winning combination, don't you think?

Dixie and Tracy - Lil' Bling
The array of hair clips for little princesses on Dixie and Tracy’s table made me wish I still had a baby in my arms. But only for a split second! I couldn't help but admire the patience, care, not to mention eye-crossing concentration that must have gone into every single item in their collection. If that’s not a labour of love, I don’t know what is!

Shannon Stewart - Plain Jane
If I have to think of a quality that characterizes Shannon’s Swarovski crystal jewelry, it would have to be understated elegance. Less is always more!

Angie Kehler - Crafts & Greeting Cards
Want to make your Christmas more festive? Angie’s cards and bags are just the thing to make your holiday glitter and sparkle.

Melanie Kalley - Kalley Kandy
I am not a candy type person but Melanie insisted I try a piece of her honey almond nougat. And boy, was I glad she did. How do you describe an airy lightness with just a whisper of sweetness melting on your tongue? Oh, I guess I just did!

D.S.Mercer - The Pen Guy!
If fine handwriting ever returned as a art form, Duglus would be well ahead of the pack. His pens felt so solid and wonderfully heavy in my hand and glided over a paper like a dream.

Elizabeth Holloway - Stampers Plus
Elizabeth gives stamping classes and participates in craft fairs. I admire her industriousness and high energy level.

Marlene Martelli - Kooky Mom Creations
Who knew that insulated bags could look ultra chic? I wonder if an iced coffee would stay cold in one of those adorable bags.

Table of Diane Ison - Stampin' Up!
Although I didn’t get to shake hands with Diane, I met her rep sitting behind rows of lovingly crafted cards. Keeping track of them all must be mind boggling.

Mika and Andrew - The Steveston Cookie Company
Their custom designed cookies depict seagulls, boats, and other things that spell pure Steveston.

Mandy Wong -
Mandy designs objects with felt. Don’t those cupcakes look good enough to eat? Pure eye candy with zero calories.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Of barbershops and hair salons

How many hair salons and barbershops does it take to keep Stevestonites well groomed?

Over a dozen!

Which is a high ratio for a community that is bordered by Bayview Street on the south side, Steveston Hwy on the north side, No.1 Road on the east side, and Seventh Avenue on the west side.

Here's a list of those responsible for making us the best coiffed community in the Lower Mainland:

Steveston Barbers

Alen's Golden Scissors

Amy's Hair & Beauty Studio

Remark Hair Design

Salon Vogue

Ship N Shore Hair Studio

Hair by Lenny


Inter Beaute Haircare Salon

And let's not forget ARRZ 2, Ask Hair Studio, Gentleman's Chair Barber, Salon Six, H2O Hair & Nail Co., A-Styles Hair Salon, and Steveston Hair.

Did I miss any other hair tamers?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Those icy blustery winds must have blown more than dried leaves away.

Where a witch had perched now snuggled two gingerbread cookies.

And the happy ghosts welcoming committee has graciously made way for Santa and his puffy Christmas tree, which leaned sideways like the Tower of Pisa.

In a blink of an eye it seemed, someone had peeled off the orange and black trappings of Halloween and brushed swaths of Christmas greens, reds, silver, and whites on store windows. Talk about turbo charging the start of the shopping season!

And if those seasonal colours fail to get your engine warmed up, there are signs aplenty to nudge you in the right direction.

What are you waiting for? The call to shop will only get more intense. Get the old credit card out and charge out the door, because it’s that time of year again…

Friday, November 13, 2009

California dreamin'

As our days grow darker and cold and moisture seep through our thickest coats, do you yearn for summer past?

Yes, you remember… Those joltingly bright afternoons. And riotous shades of blues, purples, yellows, reds, and whites spilling out of every window box, tub, and tidy garden.

Neither do I.

Thank goodness I had the foresight to grab my camera when I headed out for a walk in Steveston on August 29th. Here are a few shots that might transport you back in time. Enjoy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sweet offerings

Has it been a week already?

Just last Saturday, I saw this scarecrow poised to welcome young visitors at somebody’s front door:

As I continued on my Saturday walk, I was struck by the strength of the local merchants’ Halloween community spirit.

One store's facade was dressed up with great exuberance:

A sweetshop owner popped a friendly witch in the window:

A Japanese restaurant posted a welcoming committee at the door:

While a Greek counterpart graced its exterior bench with an expertly carved honest-to-goodness pumpkin:

Another merchant stuffed three orange plastic bags and painted happy faces on them, but the result was no less striking, don’t you agree?

And last but not least, a craft store sported a giant spider on its front wall to suggest the darker, more sinister side of this celebration:

Happy Halloween, everyone!