Review of The Nutcracker: Ballet BC & Alberta Ballet

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 — 8:21am PST
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Watching The Nutcracker on TV is a holiday tradition my mother and I always had. Each year, we’d cozy up on the couch, under blankets, and watch a recorded performance or an animated version of the story. So when I was given the opportunity to watch and review Alberta Ballet’s 1.5 million dollar ballet live, I knew immediately who I’d bring as my date.

Nutcracker Vancouver
Photo courtesy of the Alberta Ballet. Credit: Darren Makowichuk

Admittedly, I was filled with trepidation as I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth theatre. After all, this ballet holds great sentimental value to me not only because it’s connected to a mother-daughter tradition, but also because as I child, I used to put all my dolls under the Christmas tree, thinking they would all come to life in a very Nutcracker kind of way. It’s deeply connected to childhood magic – something nothing can really compete with in a grown-up world.

From the truly magical and ethereal movements by the dancers to transcendent Tchaikovsky score played live by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, to the adorable children in rat costumes, Alberta Ballet’s the Nutcracker, presented by BC Ballet, not only exceeded every expectation I had, but blew them out of this world.

ballet bc nutcracker
Photo courtesy of the Alberta Ballet. Credit: Darren Makowichuk

I think the small differences in this production from other versions definitely helped keep me (and the other audience members who know the story well) on my toes. For instance, most versions of The Nutcracker are set in Germany; however, this version takes place in turn-of-the-century Russia, where it was first performed in 1892, adding an opulent grandeur to the performance.

I had a truly wonderful time and more importantly, so did my mom. She hugged me right after the performance saying, “It’s really, really beautiful. I’m too excited to sleep,” she says to me now (at 12:20am!). I think I might try, maybe after putting some dolls under the tree.

Ballet BC presents the Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker until December 31, 2011 with Thursday and Friday performances at 7:30pm and two early shows on Friday and Saturday at 2:00pm. Tickets are still available including family packs. Follow @BalletBC on Twitter for additional information.

Disclosure: Review was not paid to write this review or any other. Michelle Kim did receive complimentary media tickets to the show in order to write her review.

A guest post by Michelle Kim

Guest contributor Michelle Kim is a local actor, producer, director, and writer. Providing write-ups about theatre, film, and the arts.

Transit Options on New Year’s Eve

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 — 12:27pm PST
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Translink is offering extended service on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2011 to ensure that revelers can get home safely.

Bus Yard
Photo credit: Pisces Dreamer on Flickr – Submitted to the Miss604 Flickr Pool

Cab companies will have their hands full and Operation Red Nose will be busy as well. As such, Translink will be providing the following Holiday Services:

  • Free transit from 5:00pm on December 31, 2011
  • Bus service will run usual Saturday schedules with some routes running additional evening/late-night trips after their normal schedules. Use the Trip Planner to check your route and bus times, or read our New Years Eve Additional Bus Service sheet for a list of bus routes that will run more evening/late night trips on December 31.
  • SkyTrain will run usual Saturday schedules with more frequent evening trains and will extend service by approximately one hour on all lines. The last Expo Line train to King George leaves waterfront at 2:16am; the last Canada Line trains leave Waterfront at 2:05am (to YVR) and 2:15am (to Richmond-Brighouse).
  • SeaBus will operate a normal Saturday schedule but will extend service by about one hour with the last sailing from Lonsdale Quay at 2:06am and Waterfront at 2:20am.

For up-to-date information you can follow the @Translink Twitter account, call (604) 953-3333, or check out the Translink Alerts page.

Top Dining Experiences of 2011

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 — 11:18am PST
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As 2011 winds down, I have decided to do my annual “year in review” posts. While it’s tough to select the best moments (that I have blogged) over the last year, this week I’ll profile the following categories: Travel, Food, Music, and Entertainment.

Art Restaurant - Four Seasons Seattle

I think the story of the year was the explosion of street food options around downtown Vancouver. Scout Magazine‘s Andrew Morrison has a great “Year in Review” article available from WEVancouver as well where he writes: “But was 2011 better than 2010? I’d like to think so. There were definitely more exciting openings than there were sad closures, with one nearly always following the other at the same address. Evidence that we’re still very much a small town abounded, wherein the regular six-degrees-of-separation rule is whittled down to just one or two. To wit, the end of Corner Suite Bistro (closed Jan. 4) allowed for the launch of Ensemble (opened May 10) because of the death of Lumiere (euthanized on Mar. 13).

Art Restaurant - Four Seasons Seattle

For John and I, we kept most of our dining secrets to ourselves but there were a few blog-worthy gems. 2011 was the year that we became regulars at Wild Garlic on Denman — due mostly to their tapas menu, basil and walnut gnocchi, and post-meal limoncello. We also explored more of Steveston and became more involved with the local brew scene, with sponsoring Vancouver Craft Beer Week.

Tapenade Bistro

“The soup was smooth yet textured with tiny bits of pancetta and small potato cubes. John’s fish was tender, crisp, and the eggplant soaked up delicious flavours yet maintained its crispy shell. Our mains were the mushroom and arugula crepes along with the flatiron steak salad. The crepes were rich and creamy, and the steak was succulent and tender. Without leaving any room for dessert, we enjoyed a glass of wine as we looked out the rustic shuttered windows to watch the fishing boats dance in the wind.” – An Afternoon in Steveston

Hester Creek Estate Winery

“The soup was fresh, fruity, smooth and creamy, and the crunchy apples garnish with crusted toast added a delightful contrast in textures. Chef Bell created the soup’s stock from the chicken that was our tender and juicy second course and more apples were used in our sweet and salty dessert.” – Hester Creek Winery – Guest Chef Ned Bell

Thai lunch

“The family-style breakfast, lunches and dinners were complete with fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and cheeses. We also enjoyed one of the best traditional Thai meals I’ve had to date.” – Echo Valley Ranch Resort

Breakfast at Hastings House Breakfast at Hastings House

Dinner at Hastings House Dinner at Hastings House

“Aside from the hillside meadow dotted with sheep, the edible flower gardens, the sculptures, and the unobstructed harbour views, our favourite part of Hastings House was meal time. After a morning hamper was delivered to our suite each day including fresh-baked muffins and coffee, we could then head down for breakfast (included with your stay) which was served with farm-fresh eggs.” – Our Weekend at Hastings House on Salt Spring Island

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Top Travel Experiences of 2011

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 — 11:16am PST
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As 2011 winds down, I have decided to do my annual “year in review” posts. While it’s tough to select the best moments (that I have blogged) over the last year, this week I’ll profile the following categories: Travel, Food, Music, and Entertainment.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Layover in London Pike Place Photowalk


A highlight for the blog in 2011 was partnering with Backyard BC to offer up 12 getaways over 12 weeks to my readers. We had thousands of entries and gave away almost $7,000 in local travel experiences.

As for my own adventures, I took a minute to calculate just how far I traveled over the last 12 months and, not including our upcoming trip, I cruised past 75,000kms. From quick jaunts to Victoria, Seattle, and Edmonton, to Toronto, Kansas City, Mexico (in late 2010), and Ghana via London. In fact, there were some months where I only spent a week at home. Having lost my grandmother early in the year, I think being on the go kept my mind off the heartache – most of the time.

Top Travel Experiences


Iowa for New Years 2011

“The sun peeked out and began to melt piles of snow that quickly re-froze as solid puddles, causing my less-than-adequate soles to slip and skid. We walked by houses with frosted tire swings, porches laden with piles of firewood, and flags waving proudly on the front lawn.” – First Photowalk of the Year in Iowa.


Day One in Ghana Day One in Ghana

Day Two in Ghana - Nsiana

“The city itself is bustling. Petrol stations, women carrying everything from baked goods and plastic bottles of water on their heads, men selling bandanas and chocolate bars in the streets, and entire buildings painted red for either Vodafone or Coca-Cola advertisements. Cars drive on whichever side of the road will get them to their destination the quickest as burnt orange sand kicks up dust clouds in their wake.” – West Africa Day One: Bipoa, Ghana

“We haven’t been traveling too far out of major cities but within minutes you’re transported from bustling streets, honking horns, and billboards to groves of palm trees, children splashing in at well-water pumps, and random goats or chickens hustling across dirt roads. It’s one contrast after another but the universal language, I’m finding out, is that of a handshake, smile and dance whenever a good tune is played.” – West Africa Day Two: Nsiana, Ghana

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London Drugs Boxing Week Giveaway

Monday, December 26th, 2011 — 1:45pm PST
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It’s Boxing Day and the stores are packed while the turkey is either in the oven or being wrapped up for sandwiches later this week. To keep the festive holiday spirit, I have once again partnered with London Drugs for a fantastic holiday giveaway that will get you through New Year’s Eve and the exciting year ahead. The prize pack includes:

Nikon Coolpix L120 Digital Camera
Value $219.99 / Product Link
Red or Black (dependent on availability)
14.1 megapixels, 21x NIKKOR zoom 25-525mm lens, 3-inch LCD, sensor shake VR with
electronic VR, 720p HD video, sport continuous mode 13fps at 3MP. Includes a
Lexar Professional 133x SDHC Card, value $29.99.

Panasonic iPod/iPhone Docking Micro System
Value $129.99 / Product Link
Push open universal dock for iPod and iPhone with sliding door CD access, iPod digital music connection processes digital music in its original form, sophisticated, slim and stylish at only 7cm deep at its thinnest point, aero stream port enhances audio performance delivering crystal clear sound, digital AM/FM tuner, auxiliary input & Energy Star rated.

His and Hers Scents
Hers: Paco Rabanne Lady Million Eau de Parfum (50ml)
Value $89.99 / Product Link
His: Paco Rabanne One Million Eau de Toilette (50ml)
Value: $58.00 / Product Link

Swann OutbackCam DVR-470 Camera and Video Recorder
Value $129.99 / Product Link
For your adventures in the New Year! A covert surveillance camera that can record day or night (built-in night vision), can record for months at a time, built of indoor or outdoor use, mount anywhere.

London Drugs locations across the Lower Mainland are hosting Boxing Week sales all week long as well. Here’s how you can enter to win our giveaway:

  • Leave a comment here naming the best Christmas present you’ve ever received (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
RT to enter to win a Boxing Week prize pack from @LondonDrugs & @Miss604

I will draw one winner, who will take home all $650+ in prizes, at 10:00am this Friday, December 30, 2011.

Update The winner is LisaB!

Where to Recycle Your Christmas Tree in Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, Richmond

Monday, December 26th, 2011 — 10:37am PST
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Update: Here are the 2015 locations/dates.

In just over a week – after careful watering, decorating, lighting, and keeping the cat from climbing through ornaments – our decorations will be packed away again for another year. If you have a live Christmas tree, there will be several ways to recycle it this season:

Ghosts of Christmas Past
Photo credit: Derek Lyons on Flickr

What: City of Vancouver Tree Chipping Events
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 to Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 10:00am to to 4:00pm
Cost: By donation of cash or non-perishable food items.
Locations: Kitsilano Beach parking lot at Cornwall & Arbutus,
Kerrisdale Community Ice Rink parking lot at East Boulevard north of 41st Ave,
Sunset Beach upper parking lot at Beach Ave & Broughton,
RONA Home and Garden Grandview Store at 2727 East 12th Ave (overflow parking lot south of 12th Avenue) this is a replacement for the Trout Lake event.

What: Tree Chipping in Support of Bayview Elementary School
Date: Monday, December 26, 2011 to Sunday January 8, 2012
Time: 9:30am to 4:30pm
Coast: By donation.
Location: UBC Botanical Garden at 6804 South West Marine Drive, Vancouver
Cost: By donation (suggested donation $5)
Notes: Entrance behind the Reception Centre building. Leave trees in the marked drop-off location.

What: Tree Chipping in Support of Mount Pleasant Elementary School
Date: Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 10:00am to 4:00pm
Cost: By donation.
Location: Kingsgate Mall, 370 E Broadway, Vancouver.
Notes: Enter through lower east parking lot. Free cookies and hot chocolate from the Mount Pleasant BIA.

What: Youth Christmas Tree Chipping & Bottle Drive by Donation
Date: Monday, January 2, 2012 to Saturday, January 7, 2012
Time: 10:00am to 4:00pm
Cost: By donation.
Location: Emmanuel Covenant Church at 17029 – 16 Ave, Surrey

Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 to Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: Unconfirmed
Location: Newton Athletic Park at 128th and 74th, Surrey
Notes: For information call (604) 591-4203

White Rock
What: Annual Christmas Tree Chip
Date: Monday, January 2, 2012
Time: 10:00am to 4:00pm
Cost: By donation to the White Rock Food Bank
Location: Centennial Arena parking lot at 14600 North Bluff Road, White Rock

What: Lions Club Tree Chipping
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 to Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 9:00am to 4:00pm
Cost: By donation.
Locations: Tsawwassen South Delta Recreation Centre at 1720 56th St
North Delta Sungod Recreation Centre at 7815 112th St

North Vancouver
What: North Vancouver City Firefighters Christmas Tree Chip-Up
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012
Time: 8:30am to 4:30pm
Cost: By donation.
Location: Rona Parking Lot at Park & Tilford at 1160 East 3rd St
Notes: Free hotdog, coffee, hot chocolate.

What: Richmond Fire Department Chip Up
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 to Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 9:00am to 6:00pm
Cost: By donation, benefiting the Richmond Fire Fighters Charitable Society.
Location: Garry Point Park in Steveston
Note: Read more in this PDF.

Pitt Meadows
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 to Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 9:00am to 4:00pm
Location: Meadows Landscape Supply at 18020 Kennedy Road in Pitt Meadows
Cost: By donation, benefitting Pitt Meadows Lions Club and the Girl Guides.

Remember to remove all ornaments and tinsel from your trees. In many cases, they are being chipped up to provide mulch for paths and trails in local parks.

Should you know of additional tree chipping events, please feel free to contact me.