A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Evergreen Cultural Centre

Last night I took my young daughters down to the Evergreen Cultural Centre for the Monster Theatre presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

evergreen cultural centre

The production was geared towards children and it was cool to see how readily kids broke through the fourth wall that traditionally separates the players on the stage from the audience.

As a “seasoned” theatre goer, I tend to see the fourth wall as an impenetrable wall. So that even when the players on the stage look into the audience and ask a question, I realize I am not to reply. Nor is anyone in the theatre to reply. Unless you are a kid at a Monster Theatre presentation.

Last night, the players on the stage called into the audience and the kids replied. It was a somewhat risky move that worked well.

The kids replied when expected and became quiet observers for the other parts of the show.

As for the play, it is worth noting that it was not actually a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but a play about the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Confusing? It wasn’t. It was actually really neat. Although not a “tight” performance, it was a very entertaining performance.

The performance had two women and one man on the stage. These three people were able to change from one character to another in a blink of the eye. One second she was Demetruis and then Hermia and then Lysander and then Helena.

The characters changed personas with a simple twist of the wrist to change the mask but more importantly, it was not just the mask that changed. The voice, the demeanour, and the body movements were also changed instantaneously. It was really amusing to see the characters changing so quickly. The best part was how the quick role changes kept the kids in the audience transfixed. As was I!!

I will definitely be taking my kids to check out more of the Monster Theatre productions. Especially if they come back to my local theatre, the Evergreen Cultural Centre.

 

Cavalia Presents Odysseo in the Olympic Village

Although I have not yet found time in my hectic family schedule for us to attend a performance of Odysseo, a re-imagining of equestrian and theatrical arts, a couple of my friends have been to the show and they both said this is a MUST SEE performance.

I have to admit, I am amazed by the images I have seen of the performance so far. So what is Odysseo? And where is it?

Odysseo
Photo Credit – Jak Wonderly

Well, Odysseo’s White Big Top – the largest touring tent on the planet – was erected in Vancouver’s Olympic Village in preparation of Odysseo’s second and final run in Vancouver.

Cavalia
Normand Latourelle of Cavalia

The $30 million theatrical production imagined by Normand Latourelle opened on January 29th with matinee and evening performances now scheduled through February 26th.

Covering a surface area of 5,425 square metres, the size of the BC Lions football field, Odysseo’s impressive White Big Top is a mix of art, technology and advanced engineering.

Cavalia
Photo Credit – Andrew Miller

In order to break through the limitations of standard big top tents, allow for more flexibility in the performance area, and to give the horses the space they need to feel free and comfortable, Normand Latourelle, Cavalia’s artistic director and founder, partnered with specialized companies in Europe and Canada to create this high-tech structure.

Odysseo
Photo Credit Dan Harper

This unprecedented structure is also composed of several exceptional features like the grandiose stage – larger than the Rogers Arena ice rink – that enables large-scale, cutting-edge creative performances.

Odysseo
Photo Credit – Dan Harper

Surrounded by bleachers with 2,074 seats, the 1,626 square metres stage requires 10,000 tons of stone, earth and sand to create so that it offers a vast space of freedom where 65 horses and 48 artists can display their intimate collaboration.

Odysseo
Photo Credit Jak Wonderly

To help immerse the audience in the magical world of Odysseo, images of the most beautiful landscapes from around the world are projected throughout the show onto a 780 square metre screen.

Odysseo
Photo Credit – Jak Wonderly

Never afraid of using unparalleled technical, visual, and sound infrastructure, the Odysseo creative team has invented a feast for the eyes, a multi-dimensional spectacle with staggering effects created by state-of-the-art scenery.

Odysseo
Photo Credit – Jak Wonderly

During the breathtaking finale, a vertiginous virtual waterfall overhangs a lake made possible by an underground drain system that releases 150,000 litres of recycled water onto the stage, in which horses, riders, and artists join to frolic, leaving behind them the traces of their splashes—and an astonished audience.

Tickets are priced from $29.50 to $139.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

The “Rendez-Vous” package is the deal that I am discussing with Sweetheart. That package offers the best seats in the house, exquisite full buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stables after the show.

This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous package prices range from $129.50 to $209.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).

You can follow Cavalia’s latest developments at

I hope to see you at a performance!

Stovetop Lasagna from Thug Kitchen 101

Tuesday is one of my days to make dinner so I did my usual and turned to my favourite cookbook, Thug Kitchen 101. And today’s meal? Yep, stovetop lasagna.

Stovetop Lasagna

The recipe calls for some of their caramelized onion-tomato sauce so while a pot of water heated to cook the lasagna noodles I got a smaller pot heated up. Into that pot I slid an onion I had sliced very thin. I let the onions dance around in the heat until they were all wilty and translucent looking.

Stovetop Lasagna

To that pot I added a tablespoon of tomato paste. In hindsight, I wish I had let the onions brown a little more so they would have had a stronger flavour. Oh well. Next time.

The recipe called for a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, but seeing as I did not have any, and I did have crushed tomatoes – substitution time. The caramelized onion sauce thickened up beautifully then!

Stovetop Lasagna

Of course my pot of water had started boiling so the chunks of lasagna noodles were tossed in there. I broke the pieces of lasagna into approximately three inch long chunks and let them cook. I wasn’t paying attention but you know how to cook lasagna noodles – 6-8 minutes?

I drained the cooked noodles and left them in the colander/strainer while I put the pot back on the stove. I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then put the fresh spinach in the pot.

Within a couple of minutes the spinach was cooked down into a wilted mess so I added the lasagna noodles to the pot of spinach. A good stir, and it was all mixed together.

Right after the spinach was wilted down I added the slices of tempeh into the pot. Stir around.

Now here is where I really wish I had followed the Thug Kitchen 101 directions for their stovetop lasagna; it said to also add the caramelized onion tomato sauce to the pot of noodles and spinach. Oh no, I am too smart for that…

Instead I took a baking dish, ladled in some noodle/spinach mix, and then dolloped some ricotta cheese on top of the noodles before ladling on a layer of tomato sauce.

Stovetop Lasagna

Repeat. Another layer of noodles, another couple dollops of ricotta, more tomato sauce.

Seeing as I had dinner ready before the hungry hordes got home, I took another lefthand turn with the dish of stovetop lasagna – I slid the dish into the oven at 250 degrees to keep it warm.

Stovetop Lasagna

I really enjoyed my Thug Kitchen 101 inspired stovetop lasagna. The kids? What’s that saying? Two out of three ain’t bad…the third refused to eat it because there was green in the dish. The other two loved it.  And I have a bowl of it for my lunch!

Red Wagon Cafe Fails to Meet Expectations 

After waiting for months and months and months to get into the Red Wagon Cafe on East Hastings Street, we finally found a moment when there wasn’t a line-up of hipsters out front of the place. And what a total and complete disappointment the entire Red Wagon Cafe experience turned out to be.

First off, the service was typical hipster-pathetic. The kind of attitude where the servers make it clear that they are doing you a huge favour by bringing you a cup of coffee. The servers make it seem like the customers are an interruption to their performance art. Yawn. Honestly, I am so far beyond that kind of attitude.

The other really annoying thing about the Red Wagon Café is that the tables are so close together that if you dare to lift your arm to get food into your mouth you end up bumping elbows with the person sitting beside you who may also be trying to lift their arm.

Trucker's Breakfast
Trucker’s Breakfast

And then the breakfast. When you see a truckers breakfast listed on the menu what do you imagine? I imagine a massive meal. So when you see the Super Trucker’s Breakfast? I imagine a mountain of food.

Instead at the Red Wagon Café the Super Trucker breakfast had two pancakes that would not cover the palm of my hand, one piece of toast that could’ve been used as a brick and two eggs.

We asked for the eggs overeasy and instead they came with the yolks cooked hard. When we told the server that the eggs were cooked way too hard she said she would get it fixed, took the plate back to the kitchen and returned within a couple minutes.

The server returned with the same plate and if I’m not mistaken the same eggs. If they weren’t the same eggs, they were another two eggs that were as equally butchered.

Yes, the small piece of pork belly was good. And the tablespoonful of pulled pork was also yummy. However it’s a Truckers Breakfast – actually a Super Truckers Breakfast! Honestly, you should not leave any restaurant hungry if you have had a Super Truckers Breakfast. Especially if you’ve paid $20 for breakfast.

Total disappointment on this one. We will not be returning anytime soon. Or rather anytime.

The Red Wagon Cafe is located at 2296 East Hastings Street, Vancouver.

At Home With Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups

If there’s one thing that I really enjoy, it is the total premium steakhouse experience.

I love the feeling of a steakhouse. I love the food served in a steakhouse and I love the professionalism of the servers, the dark wood decor, the larger than life plates and the heavy stainless steel cutlery. Best of all, I love the premium soups and steaks that are served in a steakhouse.

Simply put, I love the steakhouse experience.

Unfortunately I don’t get to visit a steakhouse as often as I would like with the kids’ busy after-school schedules and my wife’s never-ending commitments to work. So, it is really difficult to find time for us to get away to enjoy the steakhouse experience.

In fact, more often than not, this is what my dining room table looks like at dinner time. Unruly kids letting me know that they are starving while pounding on the table demanding food … Not even close to what a classy premium steakhouse looks like.

That’s why when the people behind Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups offered to partner with me so that I could bring the premium steakhouse experience into my own home, and to earn the title of the #KingofSoup…

I had to say YES!!

I received four packages of Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups all of which delivered the flavorful, slow-cooked taste of restaurant-quality potato soup straight to my table.

The soups are filled with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins that deliver exceptional taste and texture in every spoonful. Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups are available in four delicious flavor varieties: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli and Three Cheese Chipotle.

The best part? These soups can be prepared IN FIVE MINUTES!

But that thing about the #KingofSoup…as well as getting to sample great soups that are ready in five minutes, I am also in a contest with a bunch of other cool dads to see which one of us will be crowned as the King of Soup.

To be crowned the King of Soup we are each doing our best to convert our homes from regular homes into a premium steakhouse experience. To see more about who will be the King of Soup you can follow the hashtag #KingofSoup on Twitter or Instagram. I have to admit, I have some pretty serious competition in the run up to my coronation.

Literally five minutes and I had the Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups on the table.

To prepare the soup all I had to do was put four cups of water in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil and then add the steakhouse soup to the boiling water.

I whisked it a little, and then left it with the lid off to simmer for five minutes.

I let the soup sit for a couple of minutes to cool down and then served bowls of the Cheddar Broccoli Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups.

I added a little grated cheddar cheese, a pinch of chopped parsley, and the soup course of dinner was ready.

Honestly, the Idahoan® Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soup was amazing. It is a premium steakhouse quality soup with chunks of potatoes and broccoli, with a great cheese taste to complement the potato. I was very impressed with the soup – especially seeing as I was able to have it on the table IN FIVE MINUTES.

If you want to get social with Idahoan Foods:

Disclosure; As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but as always, my opinions expressed in this blog, are my own. 

Peanut Allergies; Big Changes

Did you know that there have been serious changes to the recommendations from the medical community about how parents should treat their very young kids around peanuts and products with peanuts in them?

The guidelines from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) are now recommending that children between the ages of 4-6 MONTHS be exposed to high-risk allergens like peanuts, eggs, and fish.

The Mom bloggers at the British Columbia Mom wrote on the issue of peanuts and little kids

Despite the recommendations that my daughter had grown up with, there was no evidence to suggest that dietary restrictions on first foods helped reduce the occurrence of food allergies in children. In fact, there was a rise in food allergies and so recommendations were made to introduce these potential food allergens around 6 months of age, and on a regular basis.

In fact, in Israel there are virtually no children with peanut allergies. Perhaps not coincidentally, from a very early age, children in Israel are fed snacks containing peanuts.

Contrast that to North America where for many years the medical community advised parents to NOT feed their children snacks containing peanuts and yet there has been no decline in the number of cases of children with peanut allergies.

Anyway, getting back to the issue, the Moms on British Columbia Mom wrote about how peanut butter is way too thick and gooey for a four month old baby and peanut butter cookies are not really good snacks for very young children because they are loaded with sugar, so they have partnered with Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs and are doing a giveaway of some of the peanut butter snacks that are suitable for young children.

Give them a visit – and I hope you win the Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs!

Gmail Phishing Scam

There is a pretty effective phishing scam going on over the last little while that primarily targets Gmail users. However, in this blog post there is advice that can be applied to basically any of the Internet tools we use, including Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (just kidding).

In case you don’t know, phishing is a way for nefarious characters (people up to bad things) to try and get access and control of your email or Internet tool without you knowing. Once they have access and control, they can send out more scammy-spammy-phishing emails under your name.

In the phishing scam that I have recently heard about, essentially what happens is that you receive an email from somebody in your contact list. Totally normal looking email from someone you know. In that email is an attachment, typically a picture or what looks like a PDF.

As Google mail normally does, the attachment is a small image in the bottom left hand corner of the email. When you se the attachment, you can choose to download the attachment, view it, or save to Google Drive. The key to this phishing scam is that the photo/attachment looks absolutely realistic.

Because the photo/attachment looks VERY legit, you click on it. The next thing that happens is that a new screen or tab will open up saying that in order to view the photo you need to log into your Google account.

This is where the problems begin because if you do as the new page suggests and you log into your account the second time, then your account is virtually immediately compromised. Or as we say, you’ve been hacked.

As a rule of thumb, whenever you see a screen asking you to log into a tool like Gmail or Facebook when you are already logged into your account, that is typically when bad things begin to happen.

With the phishing scam that’s going around Gmail right now it is often within minutes that your account is compromised. And then once your account is compromised, the hackers are able to send out more phishing scam emails from your account to all the people on your contact list.

The best way to protect yourself from these sort of scams is to realize that if you were already logged into your account whether it’s your Google account your Facebook account or your MySpace account, it is extremely unlikely that you need to log into your account again.

phishing scam
The Green HTTPS

Another thing to keep in mind is that in the address bar at the top of the page, the text should say something like “https://…” and that text will be in green letters. And, just in case you didn’t know, the “s” at the end of “https” means “secure”.

If it is some nefarious character who is sent out the phishing scam email then it may be that the “http” text is in black. Or worst-case it is red.

Red means stop.

phishing scams
phishing scams

Another thing you might notice is that the address on the second screeen, the scam-phishing screen, the web address or the URL is preceded by the prefix “data:text/html.” That is NEVER the case with the authentic Google login page.

These are all pretty small things that you have to be aware of. But that is how you can protect yourself online – pay attention to the details!!

So, in conclusion, there are three things you can do to prevent your email account from getting hacked:

  1. Don’t log into your account if you already logged into your account.
  2. If you see red or black font in the address bar stop and check; ask yourself if this seems safe.
  3. If you see odd looking text between the https:// and the words “account, pause and double check. It may be a phishing scam.

Paying attention to the details is the best protection to keep you from being hacked.

Electric Vehicles Part Two

Today’s post is a follow up to yesterday’s post about my interest in purchasing an electric vehicle such as a Nissan Leaf.

First, it is important to make a distinction between some of the electric vehicles that are on the market. Possibly the most talked about EV is the Tesla. But let’s be realistic – the Tesla is not a car that is priced in a range that will see it in that many driveways.

And the hype about Tesla bringing out a car for the masses? You can count on the new Tesla having a price of $50,000 or more in Canada. I am not sure that the masses will embrace a $50,000 electric vehicle.

Then there is the Chevy Volt – not what I would call a true EV. Having a gas powered engine is not in keeping with the spirit of the EV movement.

Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt

The Chevy Bolt – this one sounds intriguing. A potential range of 383 km on a full charge and 0 to 96 kmh in less than 7 seconds. Interesting.

Which brings me to another point; why do we need (or want?) cars that can do 0-60 in less than 3 seconds? Where does the desire for such performance come from? Do we really need a high performance race car to get from home to work? And back?

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf and the Kia Soul are the two other electric vehicles that are priced in the range that appeals to a fairly large potential market. As such, as I described in yesterday’s blog post, I took a Nissan Leaf for a test drive.

I drove from North Burnaby to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. I traveled on city streets until I got on the freeway at Sprott Ave. I had the heater on in the car, the defrost on as required, and the heated seats in use.

When I started the car the computer told me that I had 152 kilometres of range in the batteries.

Nissan Leaf Interior
Nissan Leaf Interior

I drove on the freeway at freeway speed and I was able to very easily keep up to the flow of traffic. When I needed to pull out and pass another vehicle, the Leaf accelerated quickly and easily. Honestly, there was no discernible difference between driving the Leaf and driving my usual car, a Toyoto Echo. If anything, the Leaf was more powerful

By the time I got to Grouse Mountain the on-screen display told me I now had 112 kilometres of range left “in the tank”. So that means I used 40 kilometres of juice to travel 26 kilometres.

In fairness, I was traveling at highway speed, especially up the steep hill known as “the Cut” in North Van and then up the hill from the highway to Grouse Mountain. It was quite steep terrain and I was hard on the accelerator to see how the Leaf would perform.

There was an available charging station at Grouse but the fact that there was a Tesla in the other spot and a massive pile of snow in front of the other spot making it so that the back of the Leaf would have been sticking out and impeding foot traffic … I chose not to park in the EV charging station plug in spot to charge.

I then went up Grouse Mountain and skied for three hours – three glorious hours of night skiing with minimal line-ups.

Upon our return to the car the on-screen display still said 112 kilometres of range was left. As we left, the range dropped. As you would expect.

The Cut
The Cut

At the top of the Cut I was told to take my foot off the accelerator and “coast” down the hill. At the top of the Cut I had 91 kilometres of range left. I kept up with the flow of traffic even with my foot off the accelerator because there was quite a bit of traffic on the Cut.

I did as I was told and at the bottom of the Cut the on-screen display said that I now had 101 kilometres of range! Coasting down that long hill added 10 kilometres to the range of the vehicle.

When I returned the Leaf to its parking spot in North Burnaby the on-screen display told me that the car still had 80+ kilometres of range left in the batteries.

To be honest, I forgot to write down the final number when I parked it but I do recall as I was driving up the street to the parking spot that it had more than 80 in range left.

So that means to travel 55 kilometres on a combination of city streets and freeway driving with heater and defroster on it took 70 kilometres of charge.

The real icing on the cake for the owners of electric vehicles at this time is the fact that by and large, the charging stations for electric vehicles are still free. So if you are able to plan ahead (there’s an app for that!), you don’t even have to charge your electric vehicles at home!

I have not yet driven the new Chevy Bolt nor the Kia Soul EV. The bottomline – there is an EV in my future. Which one…I am still undecided.

 

Electric Vehicles – Nissan Leaf

I am seriously considering the purchase of an electric vehicle and, as soon as I said those words to my friends they began to send me articles explaining how impractical and totally inadequate electric vehicles are.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

As a first step towards purchasing electric vehicles, this weekend I took one out for a test drive. Apparently the owner of the EV I took for a test drive had seen the video of my last test drive and did not want to go through a similar experience as the last sales guy so I was not allowed to video my latest test drive.

Other than the fact that the range on the Nissan Leaf is now approximately 150 kilometres (up from 100 kilometres four years ago), the fundamentals of the Nissan Leaf  have not changed all that much.

Let’s consider a couple of the anti-EV points:

First – There would not be enough charging stations if everyone bought and drove an EV. You may have to wait at a charging station before being able to charge your car.

True. However, that is the same as saying there would not be enough gas stations or a distribution network if everyone bought cars that burn diesel. Not everyone is going to buy electric vehicles. Or a diesel.

And further, the vast majority of people can plug their car in at home overnight and then have a full charge in their batteries for the morning.

Second – If you do run the batteries out of charge, your car has to be towed to the next place it can be charged.

True. However, if you have any ability to plan your day, you will not run out of charge. Yep, you have to plan ahead. Same as people who drive a diesel powered vehicle. A little planning helps you go a long way.

Anyway, the fact is that EVs are NOT for everyone. If you need a truck to haul your tools and work supplies around with you, probably no EV in your future.

If you live in Chilliwack and drive to UBC everyday, probably no EV in your future.

On the other hand, if you live in Surrey and drive to Burnaby or Vancouver, you would be well served by trading in your gas powered car and getting and electric vehicle. Not only would you no longer have to pay for gasoline and oil changes, you get to drive in the HOV lane and your tolls are lower!!

The fact is, electric vehicles (EVs) are actually very practical for many more commuters than most people realize.

My Thug Kitchen Inspired One Pot Spaghetti 

My turn to make dinner tonight so where do I turn for inspiration? To my Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook, of course. 

Thug Kitchen 101
One Pot Spaghetti

I love the flavours from their Skillet Beer Chili Mac – a one pot mac and cheese with beer and black beans recipe so I used that as a starting point for dinner this evening.

I put a Dutch oven with some grapeseed oil on a hot element and then added three finely diced onions to the pot. I let them sauté until they had softened up and then added some slices of yellow and red peppers to the pot. Once they were cooked down a bit I added in the spices; smoked paprika, chilli powder, and a little curry powder.

I let that heat up so the flavours of the spices could bloom and then I added three cups of veggie stock and a jar of tomato sauce. A little time to heat that up and then I put in the spaghetti. Brought it to a boil, reduced the heat so the spaghetti could cook, and left it cooking for about ten minutes.

Once the spaghetti noodles were cooked to al dente I removed the pot from the heat and folded in a quarter cup of nutritional yeast to give the pasta a cheese, nutty flavour.

And then just before serving the pasta I added a can of black beans to the pot of pasta. Of course before using the black beans I dumped them into a strainer and thoroughly rinsed them.

The good news? In less than half an hour I had dinner on the table and the one pot spaghetti was delicious, the kids enjoyed it, and I only had one pot to clean after dinner. Another winner inspired by the Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook.