Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saturday: To UBC Again

I have lived in Vancouver all my life and it seems to be summer always starts and stops on a single day. This year seems to be no exception. We have had a great spring, then, we had this past week of showery weather and cooler temperatures especially at night—I love those mild temperatures, don't get me wrong—but then yesterday suddenly summer started.

There was no wind, it was hot, the sea is like a mirror (I love that about summer) and I had three very mild asthma attacks, but the moment I woke up I knew and I had to get outside after all the baking of the past week. I dressed and was out the door and I didn't take my camera. Yesterday my eyes were just not as important as my nose.

I could smell the sea air as I walked over the Granville Bridge. It is so fresh and it rolls in off the immense Pacific Ocean (155.5 M sq. mi. versus the Atlantic that is only 68 M sq. mi.) cleansed by the sea. And on the bridge I could smell the bakery getting the days supplies nice and hot for the tourists on Granville Island, the smoke of a wood fire somewhere, the Cottonwood trees—there was so much to smell in the quiet of the morning.

I walked a familiar route out to UBC and to Wreck Beach where I like to rest in the sun. It was glorious. Then a  bus to Rita and a fast visit with her as the heat can be hard on her, then home for a quick change to go to my friend Annabel's birthday party. There is nothing like a great party full of theatre friends on the first real night of summer. Their party was catered and there were musicians playing and her two strikingly handsome sons were a great part of the night.

Breathing was brutal yesterday. Two years into this asthma and I am still learning but I think the trouble with summer is the lack of wind and rain means the air is dirty. The great thing about this showery climate is that the rain clears particulates in the air.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Victory Parties

I am ready for two birthday parties this weekend. My pride and joy are the green ones. I call them "Apple Pie Macarons" because I filled them with an apple/clove cream butter I made. They are delicious and make a wonderful gift as does anything hand made. And now I am ready for the return of the sunshine. The hands like baking but the feet were made for walking....

Thinking Thursday

Check out the coming temperatures.

Thursday involved modest locomotion to arrange for a surprise birthday party for my friend Chris A. Chris has been living with cancer for just over four years. When he was diagnosed, we organized a benefit for him and raised ten grand as a comfort fund for him but now he is in palliative care.

On Sunday we will likely have our last "Sylvia Salon." He lives in a small place so he has always held an open house in the bar of Vancouver's iconic Sylvia Hotel and he decided to have one more this Sunday. This past Tuesday was his birthday so I have written to everyone coming on Sunday and asked them to bring a limerick about Chris as a present and I have arranged with the hotel to have a cake delivered from the Bon Ton (my favourite bakery). I will order champagne.
It has been two months since my show, Knock Knock, closed and I began living day-to-day. It has been two months of waking each morning with no plans. The sunny days are easy: I go out for a long walk and I am stimulated by what I encounter. The rainy days are a challenge.

On rainy days, I really need a project. Reading makes me fall asleep, I can’t stand television and hardly any movies interest me—hence the baking. All I ever want to do is write but if I do that it will lead to a form and I will get sucked into another project. Writing, memorizing (producing) and performing Knock Knock was a compulsion/obsession for two years.

Two months with no current or future project on the horizon, no commitments to travel and no family at all. I have never lived so light and like any way of life, I am getting used to it. But it must end. I must have a project of some kind by November and possibilities are emerging:
  1. Revising and expanding my book to include all the material I have developed for my course at Emily Carr University.
  2. Re-printing my book as it is and writing my course material as a sequel
  3. Leading all fundraising at PAL: Teaching the organization how to fish instead of delivering a large tuna every two years
  4. Revising Knock Knock, learning it all over again and staging it acoustically. (But this will only happen if the play is accepted for production at Pacific Theatre.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



Celebration Day

Today I am seriously celebrating because DOMA and Proposition 8 were overturned in the US and I got a lovely note from the Artistic Director of the theatre considering my play for their next season. And I had lunch with my bosom buddy, Dwight; I have so many reasons to be happy… hence the macarons. The sun and hot summer weather is on the way on the weekend, I am drinking Diet Coke and listening to Celine Dion sing songs in French from her youth. All is very right with the world.

28 perfect little raw macarons.

58 more perfect little raw macarons.

I believe I have finally learned how to make decent macarons. This was my fifth batch (blueberry); as I write, the sixth (lemon) is waiting to go into the oven.

And He Walks HAPPY Today!

The amazing lawyer, Roberta Kaplan (right), and Edie Windsor, whose case gave the legal civil marriages of homosexual couples full federal equality.Windsor said, “I wanna go to Stonewall right now!”

I was up at 5:00 am searching for live streaming of the US Supreme Court's two key decisions this morning. Here is what I wrote to all my gay friends when they woke up (if they checked their email) in case they did not know about today.

The US Supreme Court rules TODAY on two cases affecting gay people. I believe it is to be announced at 7:00 am PDT. The issues before the court are California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies legally married gay Americans a range of tax, health and pension benefits otherwise available to married couples. I have been looking for a live feed but cannot find one. But in about 70 minutes, a moment like Stonewall is about to happen.

Do you remember the Dalcon Sheild? It was a birth control device that rendered thousands of women sterile in the US and Canada. My friend Maggie Thompson led the Canadian fight against Dow Chemical (which declared bankruptcy and formed a new company to avoid responsibility and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to not recompense the women). It took over ten years of fighting a vile corrupt gaggle of psychopaths but on the day of the decision, Maggie heard that she won for all her clients, and then she had a break down and was lost for two years. She has recovered but is not the same person and today I am thinking of the few individuals who for an eternity have been fighting, raising money, organizing and praying for a positive outcome in 70 minutes. I feel for those people right now.
Today is a fine day for everyone; both decisions affirmed the rights of gay people. I want to party. I will think of the brave and tenacious individuals who fought to make me equal in law.

And I hope all the gay haters have a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Am Oven Mature

When you can't walk, sit and study an empty oven. That's what I did for much of this morning. Why? WEll here is what I learned: Turn my oven on to $300° and it will go to 325° for about six minutes then it will reheat and go to 235° for about seven and a half minutes. All morning I have been setting temperatures and then watching and timing the results so that I can cook macarons for a controlled time and (as mush as possible) in a constant temperature. To do that means being a temperature dial deejay. I   use the dial to control the burners; I turn it off and on and use a cover on the vent to control the cooking temperature.

The afternoon involved learning how to use the scale to get the right amount of material without weighing the bowl. I have weighed all the ingredients for my next test batch. Also, I have egg whites that are already 24 hours aged. I will let them reach room temperature for four hours before I cook my next batch.

My reward for all this diligence: I found a local source of hazelnut flour. I am now set to succeed.

Wet, Blue Monday

After the morning monsoon I was surprised to see a break in the clouds at 2:00 pm so I was out the door on a quest for supplies to improve my macaron baking. I got the scale and pastry bag that I wanted and scored a (cheater) bonus. I found a silicone mat for making macarons. I didn't even know they existed.

I also found this FUN blog about baking.

These rainy days are typical for June (which is sometimes called Junuary here) but walking in iffy weather is a treat. No sunburn, no concern for overheating, no "golfer's legs," no sweat and barely anyone on the street. And it is nice and warm.

Tonight (Tuesday) my summer term begins at Emily Carr University of Art & Design. My last term ended February 27th so I have had a very long break from students and marking. Tonight when I walk into my classroom there will be seventeen strangers waiting. It's like speed dating but you have to go out with everyone you meet for two months. I am gun-shy after many many terms.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mayors East and West

Toronto: Crack Scandal.
Montreal: Last Two removed from office and charged with crimes.
Calgary: Calgarians tweet for a loved mayor to take a nap during the floods.
Vancouver: Hated for creating bike lanes (finally).

Right now it is raining a tropical monsoon. You rarely see rain like this in Vancouver in spite of our reputation. But the air smells heavenly so I have all my windows open. There is so much rain in the air right now it looks like it is foggy out.

I spent most of my energy during the past two days baking and getting depressed. I baked four batches of macarons and all but one were awful. Only one batch worked and I photographed them a couple of days ago. Then, late on Sunday, I found an old oven thermometer and discovered my oven is almost twenty degrees hotter than the dial.

I have also decided to bake by weight instead of volume so today I am going to find a professional digital scale. By the time my hazelnut flour arrives from Vermont, I will have “aged” egg whites.

It’s all about technique. Les Escoffiers age their egg whites up to five days at under paper towel in their fridges then they let them stand for 6 hours at room temperature before they are whipped. Phew. And they adjust the flour content of their recipes ever so slightly when various coloring agents are added. Technique and precision.

Visibility is about two blocks!

You can see the streaking raindrops in this one.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Home Schooling

Due to clouds, the appeal of my new Kitchen Aid mixer, my new desire to learn to bake and my love of macarons I have been baking since early this morning.

I read all I could and put the first batch in (above.)

They rose beautifully as this image (above) shows. I took it through the oven window. I adhered rigorously to the directions of the recipe but I left a pot cover over the burner with the vent and I think that is why I overcooked them.

In the image above, you can see the overcooked first batch; pooey. The pink is the second batch I made.

The second batch did not rise as well but they kept their colour but I am still not happy with their "feet" (the porous spongey lower layer). I am very pleased however with my surface. I sifted three times.

Even the low-risers look decent when the raspberry butter cream is added. I have not tasted them yet but how can butter, eggs, sugar and raspberries go wrong?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Art Summit

My walk to the conference began with a lovely encounter with these two gents outside a coffee place. I see; I melt.

A long time ago I was an arts activist whilst working professionally in the arts. A long time ago I had faith in government, the future and that society would come to recognize the social value of the creative industries. A long time ago, I believed my peers could put the collective ahead of their ego.

Now, aged 65, I remain a cynical and bitter optimist and although my optimus gland is atrophying, I went to The Arts Summit today—a pan creative conference to map out the future we want hosted by the organization I co-founded and served as its first executive director. It was an ego swamp; there are so many people there who like display their accomplishments disguised as advice for others. Revolting.

The worst part of today was being part of a "break out group." I left immediately after and I am not going back for day two. There were no order to our discussion in the small session and I blame our leader for that. But he was almost helpless against one raging ego in our group who would not stop talking. Honestly: It was one of my worst conference experiences ever.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. I ache for a long walk.

Why people come to Vancouver.

This woman, Alison Turner, is the Assistant Executive Director and a whole bunch of other things (her official title is ridiculously long) was the highlight of the conference for me.

Lingua pictoria.

Sadira, my lovely brilliant boss at Emily Carr University.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rain. So Chris buys happiness.

Because today was horrid.... I went by bus to Canadian Tire to buy a Kitchen Aid mixer (can you feel my love). I found the exact one I wanted in a glorious colour for $499. When I got there, there were none in the colour I wanted but I noticed that the even better version of the mixer (the Prof) was on sale and I got it for just under $350! I got it to make macarons.

To really score with the macarons, I want some flour made from hazelnuts and I called and searched online everywhere. No luck, so I used my grinder to pulverize some raw hazelnuts that I planned to grind with a mortar an pestle but it is too oily to make into flower and I could not find a way to dry it so  now I am waiting for my $38 bag of hazelnut flower to arrive from Vermont.
Oh my God ... Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz is the most fulfilling read I have enjoyed in a long, long time. I am an animal fanatic and this profoundly interesting book is extremely aptly titled plus, Ms Horowitz is as clever a writer as she is a scientist—and that is her approach in this treasure. She is a Godsend for  everyone who loves dogs and life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To the Doctor and Back

The one balcony I liked. Hemlock St.

Today I set out to look at balconies on a grey but dry day (so far). I live in a tower and have no balcony; only two windows open. I have windows from wall to wall but I miss the outdoors and even one plant so I pine to move every summer—to a place with a big balcony.

Today was disheartening. Almost every balcony I saw was tiny; the worst was one with two doors accessing onto it that prevented you from having anything on the balcony so that both doors could open. Many were overcrowded. I only saw one I liked and it is clear I couldn’t afford it.

I walked to my (wonderful) doctor’s office, waited an hour and then had a great visit because it was my first visit since he saw my play. I also received an invitation for a dinner and a private screening of a film (I am in) at a major philanthropist’s home here in Vancouver and another guest wrote to me who had seen my play. The phrase that dominates my life since the play debuted is: Positive unexpected outcomes.

“Stop to smell the roses,” they say. I do. In fact I stop to smell any fragrant flower. I worship the sense of smell. I also stop for dogs and cats. I am animal manic and reading Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz is teaching me about my canine brothers. They not only stop to smell the roses, they can smell a difference in each petal.

I came home via the market and bought supplies to make another tart. Oh my God. What is going to happen to my waist? The worst thing about this sudden (and unexpected) interest in baking is that cooking for friends is going to take even longer. I never cooked desert. I would always make a simple fruit desert; all I cared about was the savoury part of the meal. Now the cooking/eating time ratio is going to be even worse.

 Fairview Slopes (above and below) was once a tony area to live. W 8th.

More houses with front porches mere meters from the street. W 8th.

Sites like this make me melt.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lynn Valley Again & Downtown

Back to the dentist in North Van to walk home. Nothing of interest to report (except Costco was out of limes—damn). I can't say it often enough: The feel of warm sunlight on the skin is as heavenly a feeling as I have ever felt. (Not burning or hot sweaty sun, but warm lovely late afternoon sun).

Walking through town I was struck by the names of residences. I hardly ever hear people give their addresses by the name of their building—except, perhaps, with the iconic ones—but the tradition thrives. Many have no names now, but lots do....

Is this a bit pompous?

The owner has to be a Scot.


 LIke living in a laundromat.

 A lot of buildings in the West End—especially near the beach—have names that evoke beach culture.

This place in North Van is four stories high.

I never tire of the Seabus and this view of the Convention Centre.