Saturday, June 28, 2014

Out With the Old - In With the New

The last 10 days took my breath away and changed Glen and my future, but you have to read to the end to find out why!

When I took 8 weeks off over the holiday season to refocus and rejuvenate, I decided 2014 would be a year of change. It began slowly and has been gaining momentum with each month. It was time to stop pushing myself so hard to make absolutely every event and focus on goals.  I love the community that has embraced and supported me over the last 8 years, so this change in particular was hard. I was worried saying no to invitations would give the message I was no longer offering my support - not true. But I was exhausted and needed to direct more energy toward personal goals. Daily guided meditations would now be a part of each morning - so several Deepak Chopra 21-day series were purchased and downloaded into my computer for easy access.

I needed to make time - for myself, for my work, for my friends, for my family, for growth - so setting a clear schedule that balanced these areas was important. Writing days became Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursdays were allotted as out days for any reason - meetings, coffee/lunch/walk/movie with friends, interviews, anything that drew me. This decision in particular made a huge difference in my personal relationships. When you make time for the important people in your life, it enriches those relationships a hundred fold. My oldest son began to pop by on Sundays for dinner and a movie, so it became a sacrosanct day that I rarely allow any bookings. Saturdays were left open to the universe. My last planned change was to let go of industry relationships where we weren't on the same page in terms of direction and look for those that embraced the concept of Ujamaa - cooperative economics, we work together to raise each other up, my success is interconnected to your success and yours to mine.

I was in for a surprise as the universe had much more in store. 6 weeks ago things took off at a mad pace. The speed of change was crazy. I became a citizen, scheduled a November launch for my book, approved book cover concepts and received my new Canadian passport. Most impressive was a bike ride along the dike in Richmond that led to us selling our home and buying a new one in only 10 days (only 6 days from viewing to finalizing both deals) - something we weren't even considering starting until after November. The real estate agent is over the moon as he was half of the sale of ours and agent for both on the one we buy.  He owes us a bottle of champagne. Here is what those last 6 weeks looked like.

We are 1/2 block off this great area to walk and bike ride.

May 15 - Influence Publishing set firm schedule for finishing book and fall launch.
June 5   - Notification my citizenship has been approved and swearing in date.
June 12 - Book cover ideas discussed and approved. All cover information turned in.
June 13 - Citizenship Ceremony (Unexpectedly they took away my permanent resident card
        I needed to get on a plane June 2nd & you had to wait 3 business days to apply for
        passport. A little stressful.)
June 18 - Applied for express passport. Just throw money at them and it happens.
June 18 - Went on a bike ride with Glen and noticed an interesting housing area. Glen thought
        it would be too expensive, but the idea wouldn't go away.
June 19 - Went on a bike ride by myself and took a detour through the small housing development.
        I loved the neighborhood and there was one house for sale. After looking it up online, it was
        in our price range, so I took Glen to see it that evening and messaged realtor.
June 20 - Spoke with realtor and booked a viewing.
June 24 - Walked through the house and had a good feeling. The realtor informed us as ours was
        a building lot, he had checked with a few sources had a firm buyer for our house lined up
        at the net price we wanted. Were we interested WHAT? We were floored.
June 26 - Signed papers to sell our house and filled out offer for new house. I know - backwards.
June 27 - Picked up my passport and WORRIED ALL DAY!
June 28 - The house is ours. What a relief. After 26 years we are letting go of our current home
       and most of the furnishings as they won't work in the new home. It will be a time of sorting
       and releasing that which no longer serves us and embracing the future has to offer.

I can only hope things slow down for just a bit now as I need some quiet space to finish the draft of my book so it can head into the editing process on time. We have always made real estate deals pretty quickly, but 9 days was a first for us that I think even surprised the realtor.

This is only the first 6 months of the year. I am sure the next 6 will hold many other surprises and delights.  My belief that this would be an amazing year of change has proved correct. The decision to embrace Ujamaa relationships has proven the perfect guide. I am filled with gratitude and a sense of eager expectation for what else is on it's way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dystopia – Sustainable Love in a Time of Destruction

by Helen Siwak, guest blogger

Dystopia Opening by Marshall Heritage
The evening was warm and breezy, the sun was setting on the spectacular Vancouver skyline and sound of playing children filled the air. What better setting for a graduation for all the hard working students of JCI (John Casablancas Institute) than a veritable utopia?

Inside Performance Works on Granville Island, the students perpetuated this lovely illusion by putting together a fantastic collection of silent auction items from their Silver and Bronze Sponsors, as well as a tasty spread including Habibi’s hummus, healthy fruits and veggies, Onnick’s blueberry iced tea, cupcakes and Petit Ami coffee, cold beer by Steamworks and Andrew Peller wines.

Soon the mingling area became crowded, stifling in fact, whether it was planned or not, this pre-show atmosphere was just a taste of what was to come! Soon the curtains parted and within seconds the folding chairs were full. Those left standing found themselves stuck in a post apocalyptic world set of chaos with nowhere to turn but to the black unlit corners of their own personal dystopia.

The runway was strewn with metal barrels, wooden crates, broken car parts, smashed lamps and bags of garbage. An atomic bomb projection looped over and over reminding us of the conditions of life in this ‘world’. A life characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution and the abridgment of human rights.
 by Marshall Heritage

MC Raymond Liens spoke to the hard work, diligence and creative talents of the graduating class and the struggles they face before handing the microphone to a representative from the Covenant House. The Covenant House was the local charity benefitting from the net proceeds of event ticket sales. We learned that on any given night there are between 500 and 1,000 homeless youth on our streets. The Covenant House provides them with counseling, job search assistance, housing, food, a safe place to sleep and so much more.

The lights dimmed and music of the disenchanted began to play. Models slunk out of a darkened doorway wearing a mix of thrifted and student designed garments, some armed with homemade spike weapons, others with gas masks. The footwear was sky high, the eyes blackened and the hair frizzed out as only post-apocalyptic acid rain could style it. Black was definitely the new black with accents of animal print, denim, faux fur, leather, and tulle. Accessories included crowns of silver, dirty looking silk flowers garlands and giant metallic skull necklaces by designer Carolyn Bruce

Whether in the context of Dystopia or covering the backs of their generations’ malcontents, the distressed and sometimes destroyed garments were ruggedly chic and very wearable. The students definitely have developed eye for thrifting and have proven that sustainable fashion can be at the heart of an eye-opening event and can further the ‘fashion with a conscience’ ethic.

Runway images by Marshall Heritage Photography

The final student to show was Jerome Insorio, familiar to everyone from his participation in the Eco Fashion Week 08’s Value Village sponsored Thrift Chic Challenge. His models were clothed in jet black burlap so new you could smell the jute as they glided in by. Skirts alternated between being long and binding to short and seductive, sheer tops and nipple daisies gave you a glimpse but never the goods, and the finally the slouchy Dystopian queen in grungy black. She wore a ragged tulle skirt, black cotton sports bra, a tarnished crown and a waist length necklace that doubled as body armour with sharp points, chains and shoulder guards. This queen may have appeared frail but had a look in her eyes that would make even the hardest post-apocalyptic punk put down her bloody baseball bat and kneel.

Left image by Marshall Heritage - Right image by Helen Siwak
Instructor and renowned LADY fashion stylist, Gian Carlo Umahon glowed as he watched the models exit said “I am very proud of the Graduating Class 144, they pulled it off! They have captured the beauty in Chaos for sure, from the set, styling, hair and make-up. They worked very hard and are very talented individuals! I am a proud mama, having the privilege to be one of their instructors. I look forward to what they get into in the future!”

Graduating Class by Marshall Heritage
The graduating class of JCI #144 followed the models and were met with great applause and swarming by friends, family and well-wishers. I had a chance to speak with Jerome (always wearing his signature jaunty neck scarf) about the event to find out more about what he and the others students were thinking when they put together their final projects for this show. To which he replied “The show Dystopia is the fruit of everything the Class #144 has learned collectively from all of the amazing instructors at John Casablancas Institute. The past eleven months of intense training at JCI has been a very liberating and humbling experience for me and I absolutely look forward to utilizing what I learned in my upcoming projects and collaborations in the industry.”

Congratulations to all the graduates of JCI #144 and to the styling and model coordinating team of Jerome, Savannah Cochrane and Douglas Alfaro-Ochoa. Douglas said that he, Jerome and Savannah “couldn't have done it with everyone from the team involved with staging, visual, music and our hair and make-up team and our well organized stage manager Heather Mathieson.” Douglas looked very rebellious in his anti-Dystopian shiny maroon suit, slick hair and retro glasses. His post-grad world includes a bright summer full of expectations, boundary pushing, developing industry relationships and building his styling to new levels. Let’s wish this for all the students as they leave tonight and venture off into a bright, non-Dystopian future!

Left and Right image by Marshall Heritage - Centre image by Helen Siwak
Hair & Make-up: Lead Artist: Katie Quinn Sullivan with JCI Class FAB 402
Photography: Marshall Heritage PhotographyHelen Siwak
Footwear: Paige-Sierra of StreetSide Fashion

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Guest blogger Helen Siwak is all about food, fashion and furry friends. She is the president and co-founder of eco-friendly local luxury fashion re-seller (offering shoppers classic designers like Armani, Versace, Dior to modern trendsetters such as Jeremy Scott, Kate Spade and Stella McCartney) and a plant-based healthy food advocate with food service. She and her partner Vlassis have three rescue pets, four interns, a fridge full of veggies and a shiny motorcycle. Life is good.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sun Tea - Bringing the Taste of Summer to Your Glass

Sun Tea. The name hearkens back to the first stirrings of healthy living.  I grew up in the meat, potatoes and frozen vegetable followed by dessert world when small. In my teens it grew to include the occasional birthday night out for pizza and the Campbell's Soup casserole recipe selection. Pot roast on Sunday was staple throughout.  Pretty standard for the lower middle class American family.

Then came the first stirrings of a more healthy lifestyle. Vegetarian recipes - although with way too much fat via cheese and sour cream - and home grown sprouts of all genres crept in. It was the hippie generation in it's last throws. A few people I knew even moved to communes. One of the best outcomes of this era was Sun Tea.  Back then it was usually made with black tea, but already the stirrings of herbal varieties were being heard.

Why this tradition is not more common in today's generation is something I often ponder.  It's simple, easy and so much less bitter than regular options. Then there is the chance to try all those favourite herbal blends or create unique flavors with the addition herbs/fruit. Served over ice, what better way to wet your whistle on those hot summer days.  Okay, maybe in Vancouver, British Columbia, we don't have many of those, but it's still a great choice of non-alcoholic drinking options.

Love this pic from Life's Natural Book Craft as it shows making flavoured waters and teas
side by side in smaller amounts.  What a great selection to have in the fridge waiting.
I tried to look through the Internet to see if there was a magic formula and the answer is no.  It depends,,,,,.  The options include black tea, high end blends, green tea or herbal. It also varies depending on how strong you want the taste, how long you leave it in the sun and how hot the day is.  In the end, making sun tea is a trial by error process that ends up producing something you personally love. The benefit - it is never bitter. There is a more subtle flavour to sun tea that makes it the best of the best.

The basics -

8 liter beverage container I snagged on sale at London Drugs.
1.  A glass container - This is not optional. Plastic is a very bad choice for so many reasons, but that only takes an Internet search to realize. It also needs a lid so that you don't loose liquid to evaporation and so that insects don't end up in your tea. I scored this great 8 liter glass beverage container on sale at London Drugs for only $14.99 plus tax.  You could use quart canning jars as well if you want to do a variety of different kinds of tea.

2.  Water -  This is the easy one for me. Where I am, the tap water is the best, so there is no need for bottled or filtered. You might not be so lucky. The water you use - tap, bottled, filtered, distilled - should be guided by what you normally drink.

3.  Tea - This can include any variety you want - herbal, blends, green, herb - and the range I saw was 8-12 tea bags per gallon of water. Type of tea, strength of that variety (black is stronger than chamomile), how much flavor you want and if you are including any herbs or fruits will all make a difference.

4.  Sun - It's FREE!!!  Set that lidded glass container right out in direct sunlight to soak up the rays. Here is where the magic happens.  How long you leave it there depends on how strong you want it, what type of tea you are using and the heat. Watch the colour as that is a great indicator. Personally I leave it out in the morning and take it in at night.  If it's too strong, more water can always be added.

One gallon Monarch Mason Jar Drink Dispensers
from Classic Hostess.
5. Options - Don't forget you can spice any tea up whether herbal or regular.  Just tuck in some citrus slices, a spring of mint, lilac, etc. Let you taste imagination run wild, experimentation is fully encouraged.  I tend to leave it as is and add extra notes later, but there is something to be said for adding it during the brewing process, especially citrus rinds or mint leaves.

6. Sweetener - This is something I NEVER add. I don't like my summer drinks sweetened as I do find that refreshing.  I did see one Southern US recipe that indicated you could take out 25% of the water, add the appropriate amount of sugar, dissolve completely and then add the water back in with the tea bags.  As it's an option some may prefer, I list it here. A better choice is to let sweeteners be added later. With the bitter notes gone, you may find the unnecessary.

7. The process - You set the lidded jars out in the sun and let the magic happen. How long you leave them to brew depends on how hot it is that day, how many tea bags you used, how strong you like it, the kind of tea and what additions you included. Experimentation is the best way to figure out what works for you. When the colour looks right, remove the tea bags and store in the refrigerator. Serve over ice.

8.  The warning - I only remember one disaster making sun tea as overall it's pretty brainless.  I had finished a jar of dill pickles and carefully washed it with soap, rinsed and dried. Obviously the vinegar was harder to get out than I thought as the sun tea I made in it had a distinction acidic taste that was not pleasant.  WHY? I have no idea as glass should not have absorbed anything, but there you go.

Summer is here, so drag out those old canning jars or head out to find your favourite glass beverage container and let your instincts be your guide.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Power of Mistakes

by Guest Writer Christa Leigh Meister

“From error to error, one discovers truth.” ~ Sigmund Freud

The best things in life are mistakes; they shake our world and show us how to live our truth. I've been stumbling through mistake after mistake along my journey and I have uncovered parts of my soul I normally wouldn't have had these missteps not happened. I developed strengths I didn't know I possessed, and have been able to strengthen friendships and developed new bonds I maybe wouldn't have paid attention to.

Mistakes are powerful and through them we discover the beautiful gifts within others and ourselves. You limit your soul’s expansion by labeling them as a negative. Giving yourself the freedom to err along your journey allows for growth. It isn't wise to carry your mistakes with you like some worn out loyalty; don’t be a martyr. Experiment with your life - you have that right.

Being able to continuously reinvent yourself as you move through your life with grace enables you to remain still in the middle of the storm – and that is the secret to moving past these moments and the unwarranted guilt that comes with them.

Mistakes are the ingredients needed to find your souls purpose! When you make them use it as an opportunity to transform; often these oversights can be the things that really set you free. When you ignore the inner critic and allow them to happen without self-flagellation, you are then able to truly listen for the lesson that is to be learned. Herein lies the magic of mistakes.

They are a part of your story, so embrace them and honor where you’re at. Then start from that self-actualized place and keep moving forward. And whatever you do, don’t ever quit.

“Maybe not making a mistake is a even bigger mistake” - Christa Leigh Meister

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Christa Leigh Meister is an advocate for health, wellness and personal development while continuously pushing herself towards constant evolution. She is an Academic Instructor with Lasalle College International, her freelance projects have included Co Publishing the 2012 CRAVE Vancouver Guide, and re-branding the Langara Holistic Image Consulting Program, she currently has multiple writing projects in development! Christa believes in building solid long-term partnerships that effectively enrich the lives of those involved and the way to her heart is coffee, cookies and clothing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fresh Asparagus and Peas with Gnocchi

I grew up eating very plain mid-western food at first, and then by the teen years moved into the every casserole you can make with one pound of hamburger and a can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (or cheddar, or celery, etc.). Grocery stores didn't carry anything exotic in terms of produces in particular.

There were no local gourmet markets with organic or unusual vegetables, freshly made pastas, sauces and my favourite - Arancini. Mexican Mole Sauce was not to be found. Neither was a pack of Thai House cooking sauces.

Sunday meal was pot roast, potatoes and big hunks of carrots cooking in a large metal pot with a lid. There was no red center. The edges were always super browned and crispy. That was my favourite part.  Salads for company during the winter months were jello with something in it - cottage cheese, fruit or even celery. Another off-season "salad" I remember was drained canned peas (a weird washed out green shade), cubes of aged cheddar and mayonnaise. Vegetables were served in sweet/sour or cheese sauces.  Yams were topped with marshmallows and brown sugar. Portions were small and we filled up on sides and dessert.

One of the joys over the years has been to slowly expand the foods I try both in and out of the house. One which I wrote an article up on was Polenta.  Not sure the family is as big a fan, but I really love it.  I've learnt there are more types of pasta than spaghetti noodles and although I still don't make my own, I love going to the local deli and buying it freshly made.  Yams are now served either just roasted and pureed with a touch of real butter or as Yam Pad Thai. Salads for the most part contain something fresh and green.

Left - Polenta Torte w/Ham, Spinach and Cheese, Right - Yam Pad Thai

One ingredient I've been wanting to explore for a long time is Gnocchi. I actually have several friends who can make this from scratch. That doesn't seem to call me, but I did want to try cooking it once. When this recipe by Foodland Ontario was posted in the Vancouver Sun I couldn't resist. The writer who shared it - Laura Robin of Postmedia News - made a few suggested changes.  She increased the number of bacon slices from 3 to 6 or 7 and substituted a flavoured Smokey Chipotle bacon. I increased the bacon as well, but went with the regular as I had it in the fridge. She also topped with 1/3 cup (80 mL) of toasted pine nuts and some shavings of fresh Parmesan. I skipped the pine nuts and only added shaved Parmesan on top.

If I can encourage you in one thing only - be sure and buy freshly made Gnocchi from your local deli or make your own.  Same with the asparagus - don't use frozen or canned. The only vegetable I use frozen is peas. They are just too hard to find and shell. This recipe has a nice subtle flavour that is easy on the palette. Enjoy!

Fresh Asparagus and Peas with Gnocchi
Makes: 4 servings
Preparation time: About 30 minutes

6            strips bacon (original recipe said 3)
1 lb        asparagus (500 grams), trimmed and cut into pieces
½ c        chopped shallots
3           cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp     salt and pepper
1 lb        FRESH!!!! potato gnocchi (I bought 1/2 herb and 1/2 regular and mixed them)
½ c        peas, fresh or frozen (Thawed)
3 T        freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium - high, turning once, until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate; set aside. Reserve 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the fat from skillet. Wash skillet.

2. Add reserved bacon fat, chopped asparagus, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper to skillet; cook, stirring often, until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 7 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling lightly salted water, cook gnocchi according to directions (or until they float to the surface), adding peas for last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain, reserving ½ cup (125 mL) of the cooking water.

4. Crumble bacon and add half to the skillet along with reserved cooking water, gnocchi mixture and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the Parmesan cheese; toss to coat. Spoon into serving dish. Sprinkle with remaining bacon and cheese.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BMW Cabriolet Charity Launch Gala 2014

Images by Ed Ng
I was privileged this year to receive a media invitation to Brian Jessel BMW's Cabriolet Charity Launch Gala 2014.  Having attended many fashion and charity events over the years, my expectations were it would be something in line with other events.  I couldn't have been more wrong!

Let's start with arrival time.  Vancouver patrons are notorious for arriving late. Imagine my surprise to arrive 5 minutes after the door opened and find an enormous number of people already there - walking, standing in line, in cars waiting for valet parking and more. I quickly and wisely chose the valet parking. Next came the long line-up to get inside which moved extremely quickly and efficiently. Then it was onto the red carpet and in the door to find the venue already 1/3 full.  WOW!  Unheard of. Most people were dressed to the nines, so thankfully I had chosen to wear my beautiful Patricia Fieldwalker silk caftan!  I was, however, with a few lovely exceptions, definitely a colourful oasis in a sea dominated by black/white/gray.

Images by Neil Pelman

First it's important to take a moment to mention how amazing all the support people I dealt with were - the uber friendly valets who treated me like VIP, the lovely Amanda Eaton of Laura Ballance Media who checked in media, the handsome James Bond styled men in tuxes welcoming guests on the red carpet, the beautiful women in black dresses circulating through the crowd taking away empty glasses and answering any questions, the always smiling Irena DeMarco who escorted me backstage to meet the designer, the talented Neil Pelman of Pelman Photography at the photo op wall who graciously took my picture as well as photographers Ed Ng, Norm Lee and Garry K who wandered through the crowd and backstage snapping candids.  I was treated like royalty every step of the way. My personal thanks to each of you.

Images by Neil Pelman

Once inside there was an incredible number of booths with offerings from local restaurants, bakeries, caterers and beverage companies - canapes, appetizers, sweet treats, beer, wine, cocktails and coffee. I can't even begin to describe all the wonderful culinary experiences, so I'll settle for my top 2. My hands down favourite savory was a risotto ball stuffed with beef short rib offered by Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar. I dragged at least three friends over and we all agreed!  For sweets it was a push-up pop created by WCompany filled with white chocolate, custard and more. They had tons of choices at their booth, but this one was truly DIVINE!

Images by Ed Ng

On display in the showroom was a 24-Carat Gold Leaf overlay Fazioli piano worth $525,000. It was used for live performances and if one of the guests stepped forward to purchase it, 10% would be donated to the evening's charity - Pancreatic Cancer Canada. The night also included a live auction run by Tyler Olsen as well as a silent auction full of great donations. MC's Tammy Moyer of News 1130 and Dawn Chubai of Breakfast Television guided us with ease through the evening's program. (On a side note - I have heard Dawn Chubai sing jazz and would loved to have heard her perform a number this night. She is amazing! Dawn, if you're reading this, I love your voice.).

Images by Ed Ng

Early in the evening, live music was performed by the amazing Max Zipursky Jazz Trio. Their music was a wonderful addition to the ambiance. Then later in the evening we were treated to a virtuoso piano medley by prodigy Daniel Chow. Closing the night's entertainment was a couture fashion show by internationally renown designer Gianni Maanaki. Included was a $12,000 dress inspired by the new BMW i3 that was auctioned off as a part of the fundraising. $20 charity wristbands were sold throughout the evening that entered you in a heads/tails competition to win a 6 month lease of the new BMW i3. Unfortunately I left before the winner was announced.

Impressed? You should be. This was the classiest and best attended event I have been at in quite a long time. Want to know a little of the history? Check out the great Q and A with Brian Jessel below.

Images by Norm Lee


How did this very successful charity event come about?

The first Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala was held in 2005. It originally started out as a way for Brian Jessel to give an experience back to his customers. Brian built his brand around the Brian Jessel experience, which revolves around giving exceptional customer service. This charity event was another way for Brian Jessel to give his customers another luxurious and unique experience. Now in its ninth year, it is one of the most influential charity events of the year with the proceeds supporting a very worthy cause – Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

Images by Ed Ng

What the first ever charity event was like?

The first Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala was as luxurious as the most recent ones have been, but the event has grown in scale and notoriety throughout the years. A large component of the first one was a fashion show and we have gone back to our roots this year by featuring an exclusive fashion show once again.

How has this charity evening changed and evolved over the last 8 years?

It is an extremely elegant event and is an extension of the overall Brian Jessel experience, so the event is consistent with our brand. In subsequent years, it became more of an entertainment event as we have had notable guests and stars attend, which ultimately became the main attraction of the show. This year’s event has gone back to its roots by giving a luxurious Brian Jessel experience back to our customers. This year’s focus is on the new Brian Jessel BMW dealership and the BMW i Launch.

Images by Ed Ng
What charities have been recipients over the last 8 years?

The Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala has supported several charities since the gala was first introduced, which range from medical charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society and Pancreatic Cancer Canada, to arts and society recipients such as the Arts Umbrella and Canucks Autism Network. In the past, some years have raised as much as $250,000, like the 5th Annual Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala that had Jay Leno as a special guest.

Can you share just a little bit about why Pancreatic Cancer was chosen this year?

Someone very close to Brian Jessel recently passed away of pancreatic cancer, which is why this charity has become dear to his heart. The proceeds from this event support vital pancreatic cancer research. Pancreatic Cancer Canada is committed to improving pancreatic cancer survival and creating hope through awareness, education, patient support and research, and Brian Jessel BMW is honored to have them as a charity recipient this year.

Images by Ed Ng

There have been some big name entertainers at previous galas. Can you name a few?

There have been international musical acts, such as CeeLo Green, the Barenaked Ladies, Colin James and Rosette, and also comedy acts, such as Jay Leno.

Who is set to appear for your 9th gala?

This year, the star of the show is the new Brian Jessel BMW dealership itself and the BMW i series (i3 and i8). This year’s reveal of the new dealership and the BMW i series shows how the future of mobility has arrived at what’s likely to be Canada’s largest BMW i Launch event.

Images by Ed Ng
A first class fashion show has also been part of each season. What designers have graced the runway in the past?

The fashion show has only been part of the first few seasons, which is why this year is so special because we are going back to our roots by bringing the fashion show back. In past years, we have partnered with Holt Renfrew and a number of labels, including Hugo Boss and Max Mara. This year is the first year that only one designer has been highlighted – Gianni Maanaki.

Can you share a little about what drew you to showcase Gianni Maanaki?

Gianni Maanaki is one of the world’s hottest rising haute couture designers. He is an esteemed designer who creates one-of-a-kind haute couture fashions for his impressive clientele list and we couldn’t think of anyone better to highlight for the fashion show this year. Plus, he is now right in our own backyard since settling in Vancouver in 2012.

Images by Ed Ng
The evening is also a launch for the exciting, new 2015 BMW i8. Readers would love to hear a bit about this car and what makes it truly special.

The BMW i8 is a revolutionary platform for automobiles as it is the first sports car with the consumption and emission values of a compact car. It is the first electric entry from BMW and also is the first full production carbon fibre vehicle ever. The strength of the plug-in hybrid lies, among other factors, in the perfect synchronization of electric motor and combustion engine, which makes itself apparent in maximum efficiency and dynamics on the road.

Designer Gianni Maanaki, Irena DeMarco and Gianni's son backstage.
Image by Garry K.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sugar vs. Spice - A Styling Showdown & Luxury Shopping Party

By Guest Blogger Katharine Rene - A sponsored vegan athlete with FemSport Athletics, and a promoter of healthy living & true happiness. Her motto - "Be Natural, Be YOU"! Check out her website at and follow her on twitter at @KatharineRene

This past weekend, Helen Siwak of Kitsilano Kitty’s Closet hosted Sugar vs. Spice - A Styling Showdown & Luxury Shopping Party at the unambiguous Waterfall Building in Vancouver. I found the building not by address, but by the rows of rain that fell down inviting me to the tucked away event, like curtains to a stage. I knew I was in for a treat! From afar, I could see the hustle and bustle through the opulent glass walls; white chairs, make up artists, and designers who picked colourful spring clothing off the racks while others ate and mingled. I checked that my nude heels were clean, adjusted my faded ripped jeans, and clasped my transparent pink blouse with just a single button--afterall a fashion event is a fashion event even for a writer!

After checking in with the host, I was immediately shown around by a very friendly woman named Veronica from Devil May Wear (locally made clothing with an eco-friendly edge). Devil May Wear had donated a rather large gift basket to this event and anyone, including me, received a complimentary raffle ticket into the draw. As it goes in the fashion world, everybody knows everybody so I was pleased to make the rounds right away! I met Jihan a busy curve model for Wilhelmina Vancouver. She and I excitedly spoke about the ideology around a person’s size or weight. “Honor your curves” she likes to say. Just then, a woman who obviously knew Jihan bounced into our conversation with strikingly buzzed hair! Turns out this confident blonde bombshell Angela Krewenchuk is Editor-in-Chief of Fashion Anthropoligist, a sister company of Retail Insider (Canada’s #1 source for fashion news reporting). She had daringly buzzed off her shoulder length hair and had a makeover of her own.

This event had two teams - Sugar and Spice - which were competing with head-to-toe makeovers, while the donations for their services went to charity. Team Sugar was lead by Personal Stylist, Nicolette Lang-Anderson from London (and originally South Africa!). I met her near the fashion racks when she suddenly pulled a lavender J. Crew dress for me to try on. From her bold, dark bangs, see-through yet innocent black blouse (wink!), piercing emerald skirt, all the way down to her pastel red slingbacks, she was a sight to reckon with! Her team was made up of hair and makeup by The Makeup Squad. Carrie Cheng applied make-up while Terra French was performing hair services. This sweet-as-sugar team gave all their donations to The Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation (a charity that responds to over six thousand “brittle bone disease” inquiries per year).

Modelling for Team Sugar was red-head Shannon Thompson, a private investigator who, when she’s not on a job, likes to be noticed! Away (for the moment) with her ripped jean jacket and bejeweled high heels! They wound up curling her edgy straight hair into soft curls, dressing her in a sophisticated, high-neck, Elie Tahari white shift dress with pearls, and a crisp, red St. John jacket. Accessories were clean-cut: a boxy white hand purse with a green sash tied to the strap and thick, white Christian Dior heels exposing her feet and toes between straps. She wore a bit more blush and a lighter lip, which definitely softened her look!

Team Sugar’s second model was fashion photographer, Paige-Sierra who is seldom found out of her signature high heels. Stylist, Nicolette, plucked her right out of her white/ wooden pumps and into much shorter Liz Claiborne 1980s kitten heels. Her longsleeved, top and black short shorts disappeared as Nicolette transformed her into a gorgeous doll wearing a deep blue leather pencil skirt and a vintage Ted Lapidus silk polka dot blouse. Her bun and deep red lip were fitting as her look was polished with a long double string of pearls and a simple, white purse.

Meanwhile, Team Spice was lead by Fashion Stylist and Creative Director, Style by Dona. For fifteen years Donna has been romancing with fashions of far-off cultures around the globe! Now based out of Vancouver she plays a lot in the media, dressing the celebrities of television, music videos, and more. I noticed a charming flare to this fast paced social butterfly who’s motto is “More is More”. “Clearly!” she laughed as she pointed to her excess jewelery upon each of her wrists. Her team had hair and makeup experts: Tianna Tran, Aura Reed & Neet Ajula, Crystal Martinez & Terry-Lynn. Their charity of choice was one passionate and close to their hearts, A Wish To Wed. Make Up Artist, Tianna Tran co-founded A Wish to Wed to enable terminally ill patients the opportunity to receive matrimonial services and marry their beloved before it is too late. For beautiful souls who’s time is limited, Tianna gives her’s.

Team Spice’s first makeover was on a man who wound up dressed like a diva and surrounded by a small filming crew and camera. A whisper in my ear told me that he was Josh Rimer, a YouTube personality and host of The Sassy Scoop (with over seven million views), as well as being a Canadian comedian. I would have never recognised him from his original button up shirt and black pants! After his drastic transformation, Josh strutted for the cameras in a little black shift dress (Comrags), a sheer yellow blouse clasped together with a metallic gold belt. His Tahari black patent heels were high and polished matching his dress while his golden turban matched his chunk jewelry. With his rosy cheeks and racey blue eyeliner, Rimer without a doubt put the fab into fab-u-lous!

The second Spicy model was formerly conservative Kerry M. Gibson (President of EcoCentury Technologies Inc.--a small clean tech company) and coordinator of Elevate and Celebrate. She started by wearing a feminine blue wrap dress with soft wavy hair, neutral makeup, and a blue beaded necklace. After being applied with deep crimson lipstick, metallic purple cat eyes, deep liner, and a hairstyle that went as wild as a beach babe at a rock concert, she was more than willing to complete the outfit! Her pretty blue pearls morphed into a golden chain choker while her flower petal dress changed into a vintage, black Escada dress. Details of the dress included grommet studded shoulders and an Ian Astbury lace-up collar. It must've been that pink clutch and fishnet stockings that made her sneer like a naughty girl for the cameras once the final look was revealed!

Last of the models was Dominique Hanke (designer at Hive Mind Millinery, stylist, and mother to two). She arrived in a safe country style floral dress pulled together with a brown belt. Miss Dona styled her in a Norma Kamali black dress, long sleeves with a seductive lace border above her knees. All cinched together with a thick metallic silver belt, a chunk diamond necklace, and a massive metallic pink clutch. Once she slipped into her Schutz studded heels, her makeover was officially sassy! The lacy collar and sweet smile quickly transformed into a bold pursed lip and and over-exaggerated hair bob! officially sassy!

Having enjoyed watching and applauding the fun makeovers, I felt quite hungry. It was a sunny day and the sun was beaming into the glass so I mosied over to a table with refreshments and food, hoping there’d be some vegan options. Sure enough, Vit Vit Vegan had provided their vegan gourmet food for the occasion, complete with kale and pumpkin seed falafels alongside some raw chocolate balls...I had seconds of each! The fun continued as I strolled around observing the other sponsors of this event. I couldn't help but notice exquisite photographs hung on the walls. I later found out that these photographs were taken in Cambodia and Ethiopia as part of Art Zaratsyan’s self directed documentary project about humanitarian work of HOPE International Development Agency in developing countries. His images are bold in colour while they capture the hope and emotion in every frame.

I continued around the room when my eye caught a table full of mala beads, which of course I was drawn to! I spoke to Fatima Sumar, the Principal Designer of Fantabulous DeZigns, and tried on a few of these crystals used by spiritualists to promote prayer, and balance. The next table I meandered to was FIRMAenergywear, a clothing line that uses active biocrystals to enhance medical benefits in a natural way. Another sponsor to the Sugar vs. Spice event was Modern Working Woman, a digital business and lifestyle magazine for today’s entrepreneurial woman. How appropriate for them to get involved in Helen Siwak of Kitsilano Kitty Closet’s event.

Katherine Rene
The designer clothing and donations of footwear by host, Kitsiilano Kitty Closet, was off the rack! I truly enjoyed watching the palpable talent in makeovers and meeting the interesting Vancouver fashionistas try on her luxurious clothing! Fashion brings out a mood, whether its a woman shooting a sexy sneer at the camera or having a gay man curtsy and giggle! It changes things, the way people perceive an experience, or approach a situation, and best of all, fashion is timeless.