Tag Archives: crafts

Vancouver Farmers Markets: Fresh, Local, and Fabulous!

Vancouver lies in the bountiful cradle of the Fraser Valley, and the  farms and orchards of the Okanagen are not too far away. Being a port city, exotic produce and goods are readily available to consumers, and many items are available year round. Seasonal local products and produce are wonderful, however, and Farmer’s Market season is in full swing in most Vancouver communities come summertime.

I usually buy produce from local independent shops, and occasionally I’ll venture out to Granville Island Market for some “trendy” grocery shopping and a grand day out, but I what I love best is milling about with the locals at a seasonal Farmer’s Market. Seeing an array of folding tables laden with an incredible selection of fresh fruit and veg or homemade goodies or handmade crafts make me feel at home no matter what city it’s in.

I love the smell of sweet fruit in the warm sun, and the taste of free samples. An infinite palette of ripe natural colours  greets me, and I don’t mind the noise and bustle of a crowd of interesting strangers. I daydream my way through homemade bread, cakes, pies, perogis, pastas, samosas, spreads, dips, sauces, and whatever else the cornucopia of tasty treats may offer. I usually come back with a bag (or two) of fresh, fragrant, and delicious things.


An array of ripe strawberries.


Scrumptious home-baked goodies.


Gorgeous fresh mushrooms.

Today, I purchased a dozen brown speckled eggs laid by happy free-range chickens living in the Fraser Valley, and some ground beef and sirloin steaks taken from grass-fed Angus cattle raised on a Cariboo-Chilcotin ranch. I also picked up some red and yellow peppers, fresh strawberries, and a bag of various greens (including pea shoots and dandelion greens). Baked goods were plentiful, and a small rhubarb crisp came home with us, but we ate an apple-compote crepe and a ham & cheese scone on the spot.

Speaking of spot, there were quite a lot of dogs in the crowd or waiting patiently along the perimeter. I enjoy a dog-friendly neighbourhood, especially when people respectfully leash their animals and the pups have good manners. It’s always a treat for me to meet someone else’s dog, since I cannot have one of my own right now.


Little French Bulldog

My Favourite Finds:

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Taffy immediately makes me think of Laura Ingalls-Wilder making snow candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In the winter, her mother would pour swirls of hot maple syrup into a pile of fresh snow and make sweet little candies. Oh how I wanted to do that, begging Mommie Dearest to let me every time there was a good snowfall, but to no avail. Maple Syrup Taffy works on a similar principle. Among French Canadians, it’s called tire sur la neige meaning “to draw in the snow.”

After a brief hand-wash with sanitizing gel, I selected a wooden stick and the Syrup Guy poured a line of hot syrup on top of a barrel full of crushed ice “snow.” I counted to three and pressed the stick into the syrup at the end of the line, then slowly began to collect the sweet sticky candy, rolling it up on my stick. I let my Maple Taffy lolly sit for a moment to firm up, but I could hardly wait to taste it.

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

It was sticky like caramel, but light and not too sugary. The mapley flavour was clean and bright, like a moment of unspoiled childhood happiness.  I also bought a maple sugar cone for Ginger Man. They are like little tiny ice cream cones, filled with a bit of taffy in the bottom and a more crystalized maple sugar candy on top. Apparently, it’s quite a popular treat among the Quebequois. The sugar buzz kept us going all morning. It was a delightful experience.

Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt

At the Maison Coté booth, there were bags upon bags of spice mixes, peppercorns, and seasoned salts, as well as a shelf of oils, vinegars, and little balsamic spritzers. I picked up some Citrus sea salt (with lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel), a bag of Kitsilano peppercorn blend, and a White Truffle Balsamic spritzer to mist on my greens (I’m told it’s also nice on chicken and fish). I wish I had brought an extra $20 bucks at the time, because I would have immediately thrown it down to have a bag of the Italian black truffle salt. The vendor was kind enough to give me a whiff, and it really knocked my socks off. That earthy, pungent, luscious truffley aroma was truly amazing. Happily, his shop is in the city, so I’m looking forward to visiting and bringing home some of that orgasmic salt blend soon.

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

In the Vancouver area, most farmers markets open between April and July and continue through October or September. The majority run Saturdays or Sundays, but there are several venues with markets on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Arrive early to be sure you get what you want, or visit near closing time to get last-minute deals from some vendors
  • Bring CASH to make things simple, or purchase some “Market Money” using your bank card. Use it like cash at any vendor.
  • Some vendors rotate between different venues during the season, but many of them take orders from their websites.
  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags! Most markets sell tote bags and packs of veggie bags if you need them.
  • Bike, bus, or walk if you can. Parking in some neighbourhoods can be tricky to find, and drive cautiously around pedestrians. Besides, it’s no bad thing to be a little “green” and leave the gasmobile at home.
  • Keep an eye out for “delivery services” at the market entrance. You can load up with goodies and someone will bike or drive it to your home.
  • Don’t forget, Farmer’s Markets aren’t just for veggies! You can also get fresh eggs, frozen meats and fish, pickles, preserves, oils, spices, honey, handmade soaps, fresh flowers, potted plants, hats, jewelry, pottery, just about anything!


Video of Maple Syup Taffy

Empire Valley Beef

Maison Coté

VFM Seasonal Produce Guide

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets


Crafty Sushi-Fish for April Fool’s Day

sushifishdinnerI saw this tutorial yesterday on Cut-Out-And-Keep, and I just had to try it. The original instructions produce an adoreable sushi-fish transformer, but I don’t like it when seams show . . . so I made a few modifications in technique. The detailed pattern for the dorsal fin is also difficult to cut. I ended up cutting out just the basic shape and detailing it freehand.

What You Need:

  • Fish and Sushi Pattern
    Download the pattern from Cut-Out-And-Keep or draw your own on paper.


    Is not tasty sushi?

  • Felt
    Green and White for sushi
    Yellow for fish
    Pink for fins
  • Two Small Buttons for Eyes
    Or, you can use google eyes, felt scraps, beads, etc.
  • Embroidery Thread
    White for sewing sushi
    Yellow for sewing fish
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Needle
    Use a needle with a wide eye for easier threading.
  • Pen or Fabric Pencil
    Note: Pen marks will show. Cut pattern pieces just inside the line.

sushidiveHow-To Make a Sushi-Fish

This is a fun project for clubs and youth groups, and a great way to learn simple sewing techniques. I hand-sew pretty well, but this is a moderately complex pattern. If you’re new to sewing projects, you could end up frustrated, but I’ve provided pictures and links that may help. Give it a shot!

Prepare the Pattern

  • Print the pattern from Cut-Out-And-Keep (or draw your own on paper).
  • Glue paper pattern on a piece of thin cardboard.
    I use cereal boxes for this. It makes pattern pieces last a whole lot longer.
  • When the glue is dry, cut out the shapes.
  • Store pattern pieces in an envelope.

Cut Out the Fish Pattern


  • Trace fish body on Yellow felt. Flip it over and trace again. (2 Fish Body)
  • Do the same for the fins and tail on the Pink felt. (2 each tail, dorsal, side fins)
  • Cut out all the Fish pieces.

Cut Out the Sushi Pattern

  • Cut out one Seaweed Rectangle from Green felt.
  • Cut out one Large Circle and one Doughnut from white felt.


    To make the Doughnut, trace a large circle then trace one small circle in the center of it. Cut out and discard the small circle (or save it for another project).

Prepare the Thread

  • sushithreads

    Separate the Yellow embroidery thread into two strands (one with 2 threads, one with 4 threads). Use a Yellow 2-thread strand to sew the Fish Body. Use the 4-thread strand to attach the Side Fins.

  • Separate the White embroidery thread into two strands (one with 2 threads, one with 4 threads). Use the 2-thread strand to sew the sushi pieces. Use the 4-thread strand to sew on the button eyes.

Sew the Fish Body

  • sushifishbodyPlace the two sides of the Fish Body together, wrong sides out (that’s the part you drew on), and start sewing (backstitch) from the top of the mouth.
  • Place the two Dorsal Fins together and sandwich them between the fish body. The fins should be inside the body. Adjust the felt pieces as you sew to keep the edges even.  When you turn it right side out, you’ll have a nice neat seam.
  • Sew toward the tail end, then place the two Tail Fins together and sandwich them between the fish body (tail inside). Stitch edges securely.
  • Sew all the way back to the mouth. Do not sew the mouth shut.

sushiattachtopAttach Sushi Top to Fish Body

  • Turn the Fish Body right side out carefully.
  • Hold the White felt Doughnut around the fish’s mouth so the inside edge of the doughnut and the edges of the fish’s mouth line up.
  • Stitch the inside of the Doughnut to the Fish Body.

Attach Side Fins and Eyes

  • sushieyesCheck for even placement of parts and correct direction of fins before sewing.
  • Sew the Side Fins to the Fish Body with Yellow thread.
  • Attach button eyes securely with White thread.

sushisushiSew the Sushi Bottom

  • Hold the White felt Large Circle against the edge of the Green Seaweed Rectangle.
  • Sew the Large Circle to the Seaweed Rectangle. As you sew, the two pieces will form a little cup.
  • Sew up the side of your Sushi Bottom and cut away excess Seaweed.

Attach Sushi Bottom to Fish Body

  • sushiattachbottomTurn the Sushi Bottom right side out (so the seams don’t show).
  • Turn the Fish Body sewn to Sushi Top wrong side out (just enough to make sewing manageable).
  • Line up the edge of the Sushi Top with the edge of the Seaweed as shown. The seam edge will be hidden on the inside of the Sushi later.
  • Sew the Sushi Top almost all the way around the Sushi Bottom. Be sure to leave an opening!
  • Carefully pull the Fish Body right side out through the opening.
  • Stitch the hole closed. I used a ladder stitch.

sushifishHave fun transforming your Sushi-Fish!

Tips for Hand Sewing:

  • If you don’t know how to sew by hand, learn a few stitches online.backstitch
  • I used a backstitch to sew everything. It’s quite strong and simple to do.
  • Keep stitches small and even for best results.
  • Messed up? Remove the needle, then carefully pull out the stitches and re-sew.
  • Could you use a glue gun or sewing machine? Probably. Good luck.

Add Your Own Flair:

  • Green and white felt will look the most like sushi, but fish colors are entirely up to you.
  • You can use fabric other than felt. Try clean old socks or T-shirts!
  • Glamourize your fishy with decorations! Beads, sequins, paint, embroidery, etc. Just keep in mind decorations must be flat (you still need to be able to transform the fish into sushi).