people

Pender Grocery: An Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

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With it’s colourful interiors and sun-lit space—it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food and travel in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for food, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment, my mind is teleported to apple fields, farmer markets, old towns and a relaxed and pleasant ambience that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you started from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.
A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine—we experienced the pintxo culture, and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.

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The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come to be?
We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special—we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family as well as passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

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This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?
Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega—a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consists of working professionals, and residents form the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.

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Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate—a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A simple snack can be a good can of conservas from the store—sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. It is a tasty high end treat.

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Pan Con Tomate Directions

In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Whisk until combined

Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy

Set on plate and sprinkle with sea salt

Top with fresh basil

Serve

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Photos from Bangladesh: A Campaign with World Vision Canada

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An afternoon on the streets of Dhaka

I remember my first day waking up in Dhaka. The world’s most densely populated city with 14 million people—a city filled with blaring horns, faded concrete walls, the smell of dust, curry and the sound of prayer call five times a day.

I had partnered with World Vision Canada on their No Child For Sale campaign where we would visit area development projects in the slums of Bangladesh, visit communities deep in the country, dive into gathering resources on child labour issues involved in the supply chain and how it leads back to consumers in Canada.

I remember visiting countless night schools, interviewing five year olds that worked as waste pickers on garbage mountains and meeting children with stories that seemed too brutal to exist. Along the way, I was also cared for by staff that treated me like family and meet people that were working as hard as they possibly could to improve those situations.

When I tell people that I have travelled to Bangladesh most people reply with “Why would you go there? It’s so chaotic and dirty.” or “You must feel super grateful now when you see the way people live there.” Both are true and both are perceptions that scratch the bare surface of what is real and what it was like being there.

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Mukta and Bhabna both worked as waste pickers at a very young to help their families. Through attending the learning centre that World Vision partners with, they were able to learn skills and pass exams to enter the local school system. Mukta wants to be teacher and Bhabna wants to be a doctor. Both of them love being able to attend school.

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Children from the village and visiting boys that work at machinery shops in Jessore.

Creatively, this trip really made me realize the beauty of photography and how it gives me the ability to document stories and be a voice for people that need to be heard. Along the way, I also realized that it was less about me fulfilling my creative vision but about being a person that cared more than taking a great photo and walking away.

I remember being anxious about how gruesome the environment was and doubting my ability to pull off the project. This trip really stretched that idea and my hope for these photos is to share snapshots of beauty I found in this country and translate what it was like meeting the Bangladeshi people in real life.

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Babu and Sabir, two brothers we met in Chila while visiting a group of porter boys. During our visit, Babu never let go go of Sabir’s hand and piggy-backed his younger brother from the bus station all the way to our shoot location.

To think that you can love someone you’ve met for 10 minutes and care for a nation of kids on the other side of the world is impossible. But I want to to share that the Bangladeshi people I met there were people just like you and me. They are warm, they are welcoming, they are funny. They love, they get frustrated over daily life and they love ice cream. They don’t view their living situations the way we do but work at it every day with much dignity and love for those around them.

bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-8Tanya lost her mother to a remarriage nine years when her father was blinded during a terrible incident. Since then, Tanya works night shifts from at the shrimp factory to support her handicapped father and younger sister. Tanya lead our team in a terrific Bollywood dance during our visit and says she dreams of being a dancer one day.

I guess what I am trying to point out is that these trips have given me a capacity for compassion and a boldness to talk about issues that seem better kept in the dark. The decision to go on this trip was to challenge myself and take on a project I believed in; knowing that I had to be prepared to be honest about my experience and have the courage to speak out. Now that I know about these things, it seems quite foolish to stay silent.

world_vision_no_child_for_sale_sophiahsin-1.jpgbangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-9Visiting girls at the shrimp processing depot. These girls spend long hours picking shrimp heads in this tiny dark space.bangladesh_world_vision_nochildforsale_bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-17Children we met at the villages in Khulna. These boys spend long hours in the water collecting shrimp larva that they sell to shrimp farms which is later exported. Everyday, these children face the dangers of water snakes, floods and malnutrition while making less than a dollar a day.

There is a deep imbalance about the way we live in developed worlds and the way people live in countries like Bangladesh. After putting a face to these stories and knowing these people that can use our support, I believe that we should all do our part in creating change.

A simple decision can really make a great impact in a child’s life. There are children working in terrible situations and getting paid half of what they deserve because they are young and in situations that make them very vulnerable. By refusing to support brands who are not transparent about their manufacturing process, you might be giving a child a chance to go to school, to make their own decision in marriage and a chance to have a better life.

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To learn more about the campaign I worked on, visit www.nochildforsale.ca and learn more on how you can take part in creating change.

Postcards from Laomei Green Reef, Taiwan

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Hello from Lao Mei, Taiwan.

It’s so nice to be back in Taiwan revisiting old nooks and discovering new places on this island that feels like home every time I am back. I think the beauty of going away is being able to come back and look at things with a new perspective and fresh lens. There are many memories I have from Asia and they grows richer with each trip.

I took the liberty of the Labour Day holiday and drove out to the North coast with friends. Taiwan is small yet I never cease to be amazed by the diverse landscapes and lush beauty the island seems to hold.

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Laomei Green Reef: A seaweed carpet formed by a type of algae that grows on the reef from April to May before the summer heat hits the coast. I have never seen such curious plants and might have taken a photo too many. taiwan_lao_mei_green_stones-12engagement_photography_taiwan_taipei
Chasing the light with Albert and Liz

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My squinty friend
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I have a few more days left here and it is always a fun battle between savouring moments like a local or taking photos like an unapologetic tourist. I leave feeling full from the warmth of the culture here and am excited to head back to Canada with a deeper understanding of Asia.

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Till next time.

King’s Kids Children’s Home, India

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The kids in their play clothes after a school day on campus. They love having their photos taken.

Here are photos from King’s Kid’s in Jangareddygudem, India. Where I spent 10 days living on campus photographing and interacting with the children.

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Morning music worship, it’s so fun to see these kids dancing to western songs. 
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-6.jpgChore time – cooking for 50 kids is so much more easier when you have little helpers that help you cut veggies.

I must have gathered enough stories here to last a lifetime and it’s so hard to put all the stories into one blog post. These are times that I am just thankful for words and memories to hold on to this experience.

A day at the school typically starts with the kids waking up, bombarding you with hugs and rushing around for chores and breakfast before going off to school. I have never seen kids as eager to help or learn and it has been wonderful getting to see it for myself.

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A day in class.
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Varden, the goofiest kid on campus. Varden’s family work as missionaries that migrate their homes each season due to monsoon rain and floods. At the children’s home, Varden is provided with food, shelter and the opportunity to go to school every day.
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Pavan washing his clothes in a pail.

I wish I could describe the way Akash giggles every time you praise him even though he struggles with autism. Or the way Nera gets up at 4am to pray everyday and comes up to me after meals to ask “Your dish, I wash?” I hope that I will never forget the thanks that come from the villagers when you pray for them and the beautiful colours of sunsets in the Indian sky.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-5.jpgThis is Siddu, who wants to be a doctor and writer when he grows up. When I ask why his response is always ” So I can help people.”

There is Siddu and Esther, wonderful children with wonderful parents that have no money to send them to school but raised them to be the most helpful kids and best students on campus. There is Honey who comes from a begging background but is the most cheerful and shy boy who giggles every time you make eye contact with him. There is Anjelie, Sandy, Ujwal, Indu and Nandu who were orphans that thrive on the tiniest bit of affection you give them.

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Photo shoot by the eucalyptus and cashew trees on campus. The girls insisted on wearing their fanciest traditional clothes while the boys just wanted to climb trees.
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Village outreach. We ended finding this group of toddlers and taught them songs and shared a meal after.india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-9.jpg
Colours of the Indian sunset

I  spent the time on campus getting frustrated with the lack of wifi, rice and lentils for every meal and missing the freedom to roam around on my own while trying to cook food for 50 children with a stove and blender that died or stopped whenever the power went out. 

Despite the challenges of such a harsh environment, there is more beauty and hope here than I have found in other places and I have learned to appreciate the small moments that make this experience so beautiful. I leave super grateful for many things and am excited for the future of all the kids that live here.

kings_kids_children_arise_india-15The Kings Kids is a children’s home funded under the organization Children Arise in Canada. The children are taken care of by my friend Anita who left her teaching career in Vancouver to help start the home five years ago. Kings Kids is currently home to 50 children, 15 of which are unsponsored. Leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions or would like to know more!

Lorraine Sui – A Photo Shoot

One of the best feelings in the world are those moments of serendipity where you find yourself working with people you met years ago in coffee shops.

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This campaign was shot with Flowmarq for Lorraine Sui – a mom and daughter team who came together through their love for fashion and designed this adorable collection of bags for the everyday girl.

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 I got to meet the mother and daughter Judy and Natalie on the day of the shoot and learned that the bags are actually a creative result of Natalie’s journey with Autism.
Despite their challenges – Judy fully embraces her daughter’s neurodiversity and believes in her ability to create and come up with practical solutions for daily life. The bags are designed practically but meant to inspire and encourage you to live colourfully and to live out loud.
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This project was themed around color and playfulness and we had a lot of fun putting together ideas, location scouting, prop shopping, juice drinking and working with models in crazy hot weather even for Vancouver.

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 It’s those moments you have in your career where you plan and edit way into the night with too many glasses of wine but there’s no other work you’d rather be doing even though you’re always sleep deprived. It was fun.
I might have taken too many selfies during the day but I’m glad to step out the comfort of a studio and work with a team that puts much effort into executing a creative vision. It’s really rewarding watching your creative ability expand as you work with other people. Judy and Natalie are looking to open a shop in Gastown, Vancouver and I am stoked for them every step of the way.
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 Till next time.
Models: Kirstyn and Caylene
Art direction + photography: Me
Makeup: Winnie wu
In partnership with: Flowmarq
Special thanks to our friends at: The Juice Truck

Coffee and a photo walk

I thought I would start sharing more of my digital SLR work here and iPhone snaps that never make it to my OCD Instagram feed. More of a reason for coffee dates, photo walks and meeting new friends in this city.

Propaganda Cafe.

The new coffee place I am obsessed with.

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I do love a white wall and a good neat space. And I like how Vancouver- small as it is, never runs out of cool people working on creative projects.

coffee-1 The perfect 5-ounce cappucino 

I’ll end with photos from a photo walk with Thompson– The nicest camera guy you’ll find around. Shot in Railtown with white walls and decent amount of shadows.

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Another note, I will be in Taiwan for a few weeks in June. Would love any notes on cool places & people to check out!

Society Floral – A Photo Shoot

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Meet Tanisha, the lady behind Society Floral, photographed in her cute little studio in Vancouver.

I always find it interesting photographing other creatives- it’s like getting to experience the “behind the scenes’ for a few hours. Hearing them talk about their work is quite inspiring.

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Did you know that both of us got the idea to start our creative careers while travelling/living in China? Small world. 

pineapple - lifestyle photography - vancouver - portrait Also got a chance to be in front of the camera for a few shots, baby pineapple worked it’s magic.

We did a little tour around Sun Yet San Garden and broke down laughing because the light kept disappearing at the most crucial moments. Gotta love the light.

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Vancouver is pretty magical these days with the weather. I’ll be heading to Asia for a month of travel in May, looking forward to being on the road again and snapping some great shots.