City advisory committees accepting applications until Nov. 22

The City of New Westminster has issued a call for volunteers to apply for civic advisory committees for 2014. If you are interested in getting an in-depth look at some of the issues our city is dealing with, I strongly recommend putting in your application to join a City committee.

For a long time, I had no idea what these advisory committees were about, what they would ask of me, or whether I was the type of person that should apply. While some information is provided on the City’s website, I didn’t feel like I had a good picture of what I would be applying for. But this time last year, I put in my application anyhow.

Each committee has a specific focus, outlined in its terms of reference. Some are more narrowly defined than others. For example, the Childcare Grant Committee reviews grant applications and provides recommendations to Council regarding who should receive what funds. The Community and Social Issues Committee, on the other hand, has a broad mandate and considers a wide variety of topics, including homelessness, social inclusion, mental health, family-friendly communities and overall community health.

For the past year I have served on the Community and Social Issues Committee, and I have already put in my application to continue next year. I found the committee meetings very interesting. City staff often present reports in progress to gather feedback. Sometimes this leads to a recommendation to council and sometimes we are more of a sounding board to gather input before finalizing documents. Guest speakers come to share their insight into social issues affecting our community as well. In the last year, the CSI committee didn’t offer very many recommendations to council, but I’m told other committees like ACTIBIPED (Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians) apparently do. Each committee is chaired by a councillor and includes staff advisors, and their interests and leadership style influence how each committee is run.

Before applying to my first committee I was nervous about the time commitment and unsure what I was really signing up for. I would still say I’m a committee newbie – we met less than once a month (time off over summer), so we had only a few meetings over the year – but I can say that the time commitment was very manageable, and the work was enjoyable. I missed only one meeting, which happened to be held only days after my third child was born! My enjoyment of the meetings grew as I got a better sense of what the committee was about, and I’m very excited by the topics to be discussed in the coming year (the City is working on a family-friendly housing policy, which the CSI committee will help advise & review, and mental health issues are also on the agenda for January). Re-appointment to committees isn’t guaranteed, but I hope I’ll get picked for the team again in 2014!

The term length of each committee differs, with some serving one year, others longer. The committees that are currently accepting applications are listed on the City’s website. While some committees include spots reserved for applicants with subject matter expertise or who belong to specific groups (teens, seniors, business owners, artists), many positions are open to all community members.

New West is a Healthy Community – My Health My Community Survey

Neighbours600x600When most people think about being healthy, they think of eating better, exercising more and not smoking.  Sure, of course all those individual behaviours have a huge impact on health, but you’ve probably also realized that our environment plays as important a role too.

Fraser Health, as has the Ministry of Health with its “healthier communities” focus, recognizes that where we work, live and play largely determines whether or not we are healthy.  However, the lion’s share of Fraser Health business, is about providing health care services – what to do when people get sick.  A very small percentage is devoted to prevention and promotion.  Yes, FH does immunizations and such at the Public Health Unit, but over the past few years FH has quietly taken a new approach – Healthier Community Partnerships.  The idea – that by working with the City of New Westminster, SD 40 and other community stakeholders – policies and initiatives outside of the traditional public health bag of tricks can be implemented to help improve the health of the citizens of New West.  Hence health is playing a more active role when it comes to issues like transportation, or community planning, just two examples where health is severely impacted by decisions being made.

A Healthier Community Partnership committee has been up and running for over a year, chaired by the City Social Planner and with representation from a Councillor, SD Trustee, City/School District/FH staff, Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice, members of the public and others.  More and more you will be hearing what this committee has been up to.

One of the initiatives currently happening is the My Health My Community Survey.  Open to all residents 18 yrs and older in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health areas, it seeks to gather information about issues that influence our health, such as transportation, community services, green spaces, and sense of community.

This information will be used to inform policy and programs to help make New Westminster a healthier community.  In order to plan for a healthier city, we need to know where we’re at and get a sense of where else we need to go.

Confidentiality is a priority – survey answers and identifying information will be kept on separate computer systems complete with data encryption.  We are encouraging everyone to take the survey, as the more responses we have, the better we can assess and plan for a healthier New Westminster.

If you are 18 yrs or older, please take the survey at:  www.myhealthmycommunity.org.  And yes, there are prizes to be won for participating, including iPads and gift certificates.

 

 

 

Uptown Unplugged

You may have caught a piece in The Record or may have seen Councillor Jonathan Cote’s tweet regarding a “parklet” going in in front of Westminster Centre. A parklet is essentially a small, temporarily installed urban park. And by small, I mean teeny. Westminster Centre, in collaboration with the very busy folks at Hyack Festival Association, are working to liven up Uptown. This, together with their recent launching of www.MyUptown.ca, an investment into street banners, as well as the second (very successful) run of Uptown Live, is really doing its part to make the Uptown neighbourhood particularly liveable, lively, and inviting.

The parklet is but one part of Uptown Unplugged, a weekly summer series of music and street performers that launched July 13th and is ongoing on both Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 until August 25th. With an eclectic, varied, and interesting mix of performers, there is something for everyone. I mean, check out the line up for this weekend – it is pretty amazing.  You can check out the Facebook Page for details, but I guarantee, you should pop on buy, grab a beverage from one of the local shops, and enjoy the free entertainment.

(Disclaimer: the company I own with BrianaHyack Interactive, was hired to help develop a portion of content on www.MyUptown.ca, and the work, while mostly complete, is ongoing as new listings are added. I’d write this article no matter what though – parklets and free entertainment that make a community more liveable are my kind of thing.)

Amanda Marino belting it out

Amanda Marino belting it out

Gorgeous day for hanging out and listening to music

Gorgeous day for hanging out and listening to music

 

Ladybird

Ladybird

Food Truck Festival – Let’s Go Eat

The good news is the first ever Food Truck Festival is coming to New West, and it is already shaping up to be amazing. The bad news, for me, anyway, is I can’t make it! But you should be putting August 10 on your calendar and head to Columbia Street and make sure you go hungry.

Kaboom BoxThe first ever Food Truck Fest here in our city, dubbed Columbia StrEAT, will feature beer gardens (woohoo #brewwest!)  live entertainment, and 15-20 food trucks on a closed Columbia Street between 4th Street and 6th Street from 3 pm to 9 pm. Food trucks confirmed include Guanaco Truck, Casalinga Carts, Beljam’s Waffles, Aussie Pie Guy, Holy Perogy (who some of you might remember from Summerfest a few years ago – oh my!) and Kaboom Box.

With New West quickly becoming a bit of a food hot spot, a Food Truck Festival – long considered to be some of the best portable restaurant incubators -makes perfect sense.

Aussie Pie Guy

We all know that Robert Fung, of the Salient Group and developers of the anticipated Trapp +Holbrook, has committed to New West. He’s the lead sponsor for this Saturday’s Pecha Kucha Volume 3 (and seriously, you should be coming to that if you aren’t already – it’s free and open to all!) is signed up as a sponsor. “Downtown New West continues to catch people’s attention as a great urban neighbourhood and dynamic place to live. There’s a strong sense of community here that is filled with the energy that comes from people sharing the knowledge that they are part of something special,” says Fung.

JJ's Trucketeria“The Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest is an amazing testimony to how progressive this town is, and how ready it is to blow the culinary and entrepreneurial doors off! Salient is really excited to be a part of this event and, with Trapp+Holbrook, to be part of the Columbia Street evolution. If you don’t already live here, get used to coming to Downtown New West for great food and a great sense of belonging. This event is a wonderful example of the atmosphere and excitement people can expect in Downtown New West.”

Check out the BIA’s Facebook page for more info.

Digital Story Telling Unconference – July 13

My job is storytelling – peoples’ stories, corporate histories, stories of big needs and big challenges, personal moments, things learned and passed on. I’ve done a story that shares the lore of a lakeside cabin, one about an adult child’s devotion to mom’s cooking, and a salute to a family’s golden retriever that was part kid, part nanny and part saint.

Nearly three years ago, I started up a conversation with with Denim and Steel’s Todd Sieling and Tylor Sherman, and product designer Kaishin Chu about the possibilities for digital storytelling. We didn’t have an unconference in mind, but it surfaced pretty quickly. The four of us got seriously excited. It seemed like the natural extension of Todd and Tylor’s concept for a forum where people with tech and non-tech creative skills could come together. No insistence on outcomes, just a keen interest in what this kind of enriched chemistry might produce.

So, an unconference? I didn’t have the vaguest idea what that entailed. I had worked on conventional conferences before, and the stress those events produce didn’t carry much appeal. To get me started, the concept was outlined and I was given links to explore. I did my reading but remained pretty skeptical. I could appreciate the immediacy and power of the self-organizing, creative ideal, but figured it could just as easily devolve into a free-for-all, unfocused mess. But, my three comrades were eloquent and compelling, so I braved it out.

July 10, 2012, the day of the first Digital Storytelling Unconference. Fifty-plus people arriving at the New Westminster Network Hub (At the River Market on Westminster Quay – the view alone is worth the visit). Lots of friendly milling. People moving together and then apart and then together again, many times. On cue we collect in the Network Hub’s main meeting space. After a quick welcome, and quicker explanation of a few ground rules, we launch.

Thirty-second pitch slam not what I expect at all. It stokes the group energy. My turn. I stand up, speed through my session pitch (all about what I call life mapping, in just under 30 seconds, I reckon) and I sit down. Then the self-selection part that I am the most curious, and the most skeptical, about. We swarm the bulletin board to mull the pitch options written on Post-it Notes. Only a couple of moments of seeming confusion while choices are recorded, then a return to seats. The day is set. I’ve never seen a menu of possibilities so quickly parsed into a working schedule.

I decide to surrender my cynicism to the day. I’m excited now. A pause to review and clarify then we head to first sessions. Lots of talk in hallways and quick, impromptu meetings out in the Market concourse in front of the Network Hub.

From a year’s distance the energy resonance is clear, a good hum that I can still conjure – ideas still percolating. Most details are blurring now. But I remember the guy, Todd Smith of Motion Design, who sparked my interest with an idea he had about an interviewing technique he called “Breadcrumbing.” And there was the woman, seeking help for her community organization to get the success stories of kids at risk out to a wider audience.

I haven’t had a day like DSU in a very long time, where I found myself so juiced. I was surrounded by strangers who shared some of my questions about how community can be made stronger through digital storytelling. DSU Vancouver 2013 can only be better.

 John Wellwood is the Creative Director at Echo Memoirs, an attendee and sponsor for this year’s Digital Storytelling Unconference, held at The Network Hub this coming Saturday, July 13 from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Your $25 (+ fees) ticket registers you for the event, plus gets you lunch and refreshments for the day. You can find them on Twitter @DSUVancouver or check out their website at www.digitalstorytellingunconference.org for more info. 

Uncovering Creeks in Hume Park

Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster

Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster

Hume Park is one of my favourite parks in New Westminster. Since moving to the east side of New West a few years ago, this park has become my go-to place for recreation. Side by side with tiny Hume Park Elementary (whose fate I ruminated on a few years ago), the  much-loved spray park and playground, dog off-leash park, playing fields, outdoor pool, and wide, sweeping, flexible lawn space, Hume Park has woven its way into my family’s life more than Moody Park ever did when we lived on the west side of town.

Recently, we’ve gotten into geocaching as a free, fun, family activity and Hume Park offers a few of those too that are kid-friendly and beginner level caches. We frequently walk the trails in Lower Hume Park with our leashed dog since she’s not really dog park material (side note: that link is another Tenth article I wrote some time ago about our city’s animal control bylaws – I’m pleased to see that they have since overhauled the animal control bylaws and have repealed BSL!). I’ve also found myself keeping my eyes on the ever-changing shores of the Brunette River that runs through Hume Park, and checking out the herons and other birds that hang out there. So, when a recent media release from the New Westminster Parks, Culture and Recreation department made its way into my inbox that mentioned “my” park, I was keen to see what they were up to.

And it’s pretty cool: New Westminster Parks, Culture, and Recreation department has partnered with Evergreen to launch a two year Parks Stewardship Program called “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science” in Lower Hume Park. This is a free, all-ages program, and it kicks off this Sunday, June 16th. During the program, participants will learn about local ecology, help manage invasive plants, plant native plants, and monitor water quality in the Brunette River. The release states:

The Brunette River watershed is shared between the municipalities of Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam, New Westminster and Port Moody. The watershed is 80% urbanized and is home to 175,000 people. In much of the 20% of the watershed that is made of up of green space, invasive plants are a threat to the urban ecology and biodiversity that support native plant and animal species. Through “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science”, the urban ecosystem will be rehabilitated by removing invasive plant species such as Blackberry, Ivy and Lamium and planting native species such as Salmonberry and Red-Osier Dogwood.

The program runs for the next two years, occuring monthly on the third Sunday of the month. Citizen science training and activities will be offered from 10am to 12pm at each session. Sessions are drop-in but registration would be appreciated so the enough tools and gloves can be prepared. For info, or to register, contact Sharon Johal at sjohal@evergreen.ca or 604.689.0766 ext. 226. The group will meet at the Lower Hume Park picnic shelter (enter off E Columbia, just east of Holmes Street).

 

Parks, Culture, and Recreation Summer Movie Series Returns!

After the success of last year’s four outdoor movies at Queens Park, the City of New Westminster, G&F Financial and local realtor Derrick Thornhill have decided to expand to eight movies throughout the summer for a free community viewing series. Beginning July 12th, the community is invited to bring their blankets and/or chairs every Friday night to Queens Park Stadium to watch one of the eight all age friendly movies that were selected by a voting process. In total, 244 unique (one entry per ip address) votes were made to narrow the twenty six possible movies down to the eight that are being shown. Voting was fierce, but the clear runaway favourite was Back the Future. The summer movie series will kick off July 12th with that very movie, starring BC’s own Michael J Fox as the time travelling high schooler with a sweet ride and a kooky professor sidekick.

There isn’t a concession, but everyone is welcome to bring your own snacks (just remember to pack out your trash or place it in the trash can!). Movies start at about 8:30pm, but the stadium will be open at 7pm so feel free to bring a picnic and boardgames and enjoy a warm summer evening before the movie starts.

In the weather isn’t cooperating, call the Parks Hotline 604-527-4634 on the Friday morning to see if the movie is still on. Queens Park Stadium has lots of parking and is accessible via transit.

Download the poster here. The complete schedule is:

Untitled

CharacterLeaning_SummerMovies

Time To Get Curious

It’s no secret that we’re proud of our rich history here in the Royal City.  Our streets are laden with lovely heritage homes and we have some of the best antique stores in the Lower Mainland.

When Jenny Cashin of Mid Century Modern Home moved her shop into the River Market, it just made sense that the River Market then became home to a new type of flea market.  A type that had never been seen in New Westminster before.

And so the Curious Flea was born.

130416_CuriousFlea_Logo_Black

The Curious Flea is a flea market for the modern age.  It’s a social flea.  An event where people are invited to shop, hang out, engage and explore.  Traditional flea markets are a hodge podge of items ranging from the unwanted to the unloved to the hidden gem and everything in between.  They’re often in stuffy halls packed to the gills with bargain hunters of every size.  Get in, get out. Kinda gloomy and depressing.

Not so, the Curious Flea!  This flea has everything going for it.  Select vendors displaying their vintage, up-cycled and retro wares.  Incredible food from the River Market tenants, spectacular view and venue, buskers to encourage you to get up and party, facepainting for the kids (and the adults, lets be honest…I’ll be doing it) from 11:30-4 by The Stage New Westminster and dance parties both days from 1 pm – 2 pm hosted by Music Box.  And lets not forget the Battle of the Curious.

sauna pants

We all own something strange.  It could be a family heirloom…it could be a horrid gift from an ex…it could that thing you just found in your closet.  Bring it  to the flea on Saturday and take it upstairs to the Curious judging booth.  The Curious Flea ringmasters will take its picture (so you don’t have to part with your treasure) and your contact information and then a team of crack experts will choose the winner by end of flea on Saturday.The winner of the most curious curio, most vintage oddity or just most plain weird will win $100 to spend at the Flea on Sunday.  Hooray!  The item will then be imortalized forever in the Curious Hall of Fame for all to gaze on in awe.

The most important thing about the flea however, is that it is a community flea.  The River Market is an anchor point in New Westminster’s blossoming downtown community, and the Curious Flea is celebrating that fact.  Many of the vendors, including Belle Encore, Brick and Mortar Living, Flying Fox Art and Design, LoCalo Living, PAVA Creations and Robyn’s Vintage Nest  are New West locals.  There are even got some original Quayside residents bringing their collectibles from home. And because of the proximity and inspiration of Front St, there will be a special table featuring wares Front St merchants. Fleaers are encouraged to come to the Flea and then take a walk down Front St to complete their day….and their collecting.

We have built this flea to be a celebration of our community.  A celebration of New Westminster and its diverse residents, fantastic shops and incredible passion.  A celebration of why we, as a city, are awesome…and just a bit curious.

jackalope_2_2

The Curious Flea will be taking place on June 1st and 2nd from 10 am to 5 pm at the River Market at 810 Quayside Dr.  General Admission is free, but there is an $10 early bird rate for 9 am entrance. We’re going to hold the flea on a quarterly basis, so lets make this first one a great one!  And if you have any suggestions…be sure to find me and let me know.  We want the flea to keep getting better and better.

For more information, check out the River Market website and the Curious Flea Facebook page.  And come on…get curious with me!

 

Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine: Keeping a Medicinal Garden at Westminster Pier Park

File this under “who knew?”: Western Canada’s only accredited naturopathic school is right here in New Westminster.

The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, located at 435 Columbia Street is a graduate-level naturopathic medical college. Students applying require a university bachelor’s degree from a recognized post-secondary institution, or the equivalent and once accepted are entered into a rigorous four-year, full-time doctor of naturopathic medicine program.

The school is also home to the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Clinic. Much like the student massage clinic at West Coast College of Massage Therapy a few doors away, this teaching clinic offers high quality, affordable health-care to the public, while equipping our senior clinic interns with essential hands-on experience.

They are also the tenders of a public garden initiative at the Westminster Pier Park. Bill Reynolds, the Store Manager for the Boucher Institute told us about his recent day of gardening at their plot in the Park:

The day dawned bright with promise as we gathered at the Boucher Botanical Garden in Westminster Pier Park on April 28th, the last weekend in April.  Armed with shovels, rakes, hoes, brooms, watering pales and other requisite gardening tools; members of the Botanical Garden Committee met and proceeded with the task of the day which was the planting of our Garden.

Everything went well.  The garden plot provided by the New Westminster Park Dept. was fresh and had no weeds so, with many hands, the work simply flew and well before noon we had planted every herb available, raked the ground smooth, swept the adjacent sidewalks and then stood for a few minutes, finishing the last bits of our coffee and admiring our work.

The Boucher Botanical has been a dream of the students for quite some time and so it is especially gratifying to see it become a reality.  To date we have planted: Lemon balm, St. John’s Wort, Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Motherwort, Raspberry, Celandine, Marshmallow Comfrey, and Skull cap.  We expect to add a few more plants in the next month or so but now the job is to keep everything watered and weeded.  We want to invite all to come and visit our garden.  Westminster Pier Park borders the Fraser River just east of New Westminster Quay.  We hope you all enjoy and we will post pictures to show the progress of our plants over the spring and summer.

Boucher

New free art program starting May 26: ArtStarts at River Market

ArtStarts-RiverMarket-May2013-LogoArtStarts at River Market, an ongoing free arts-based workshop series for kids, kicks off on May 26. This is a new monthly event series in New Westminster for kids and families who want to get creative and have some fun. Donald’s Market ONE members will recognize this name as one of the recent winners for the ONE prize.

ArtStarts in Schools is a not-for-profit organization that promotes art and creativity among BC’s young people.  At the ArtStarts Gallery in downtown Vancouver, Canada’s first devoted exclusively to young people’s art, they currently host a kids workshop series called ArtStarts on Saturdays. And now, New Westminster is the second community to host this program!

The folks at ArtStarts are really excited about expanding the program into New West, as they strive to provide quality arts experiences to young people in all areas of the province, and winning a ONE prize has given them the opportunity to find a home in New Westminster at River Market. (For those of you who don’t know about the ONE prize, funds accrue based on purchases by members at Donald’s Market, and organizations and individuals can apply to receive grant funding. ONE members vote on who gets the rewards, and this year four different applications were awarded prize money. Membership to the ONE program is free, and there are perks to being a member. Check out the website for more on the ONE program.)

Taking place at River Market at Westminster Quay on the last Sunday of each month, ArtStarts at River Market will offer free arts-based workshops for kids. Presented twice, at 11am and 1pm, these 45-minute workshops feature a broad range of performing and visual artists, representing diverse cultures and disciplines.

artstarts-sheldon-casavantThe kick off on May 26 features a performance and workshop by magician Sheldon Casavant. His magic show is light-hearted and highly interactive;  objects will appear, disappear, and even float in the air. Magic is traditionally passed on from magician to magician, so Sheldon may even teach the secrets of some magic tricks to budding magicians in the audience.

At future workshops, look forward to cartoonist Julian Lawrence on Sunday, June 30, who will guide kids to create an original 8–page mini-comic describing themselves, their family and their culture. On Sunday, July 28, enjoy the antics of ventriloquist Kellie Haines and her puppet friends. She’ll also teach kids how to make their own puppets. (Bring a sock!)

Find out more about ArtStarts at River Market on http://artstarts.com/free-weekend-workshops

May 25 Uptown Live 2013: Music In New Westminster Streets Again!

Photo supplied by Hyack Festival Association

Photo supplied by Hyack Festival Association

Once again, music will fill the streets of New Westminster with a line-up of lower mainland indie bands of various stylistic stripes courtesy of Uptown Live. The event will also feature food carts, and family events for everyone’s enjoyment.

Starting at 1:00 on Saturday May 25th after the Key West Ford Hyack International Parade, a cross-section of local musical talent from all over the Lower Mainland is set to entertain crowds, touching on a rich spectrum of musical delights. The event is a part of the celebrated 42nd Hyack Festival, and presented by Royal City Centre and Westminster Centre. Continue reading

Queen’s Park Garage Sale is about more than bargains

A child's sign advertising lemonade sales for Canuck Place at the Queen's Park Garage Sale.

A child’s sign advertising lemonade sales for Canuck Place at the Queen’s Park Garage Sale.

It’s a bargain-hunters’ Shangri-La, and I will attend every year for the rest of my life—but not for the bargains.

Every May the Queen’s Park neighbourhood hosts a community garage sale and it’s one of the events that I really look forward to, but it’s probably not for the reasons you’d think.

Yes, you can get some absolutely fabulous bargains and it’s no secret that I love to get a deal. It’s also an event that builds community because it’s a good excuse to chew the cud with your neighbours, and we all end up buying some sort of junk from each other. I’ve picked up lots of things for our Arts & Crafts bungalow including vintage framed prints, a craftsman-style front porch lamp, and even a wooden door for my art studio. In fact, it was during this annual sale that I bought one of my most prized possessions–my fireplace surround. I love that I know which house it came from and the connection it gives me to the heritage of my city. So yes, great deals, neighbourliness, the treasure exchange, and the proverbial “hunt” for a great deal are all reasons to shop at the Queen’s Park Garage Sale.

But even if I was never to buy another thing, I will always attend. This sale will always be close to my heart because each year it is held in support of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

Back in 1995, Frank Wright, a local realtor, decided to sponsor the Queen’s Park Garage Sale in support of the then-under construction and first free-standing children’s hospice in North America. The doors opened that year in November. And only two days after their opening, my husband and I and our two daughters walked through the shining new front doors for our first stay there. In 1994 our oldest daughter, Brenna, was diagnosed with Batten Disease, a rare, degenerative neurological disease. During the next few years after our inaugural visit we received respite at the hospice and, later, palliative and bereavement care there.

Despite what you might think, the hospice is a place full of life–children in wheelchairs zooming around, siblings playing video games with the occasional visiting hockey player and families enjoying time and relaxation together. But children do die there: Brenna passed away at our “home away from home” on the last day of summer, September 21, 1997. The funds raised by the Queen’s Park Garage Sale from 1995 to 1998 directly supported our family while we used Canuck Place.

Another New Westminster family, who live just a few blocks from us in Glenbrook North, needed Canuck Place too when their younger daughter, Madison, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Says her mom, “Madison passed away in January 2004 at Canuck Place. And we are forever grateful for the care she received.”

The Queen’s Park Garage Sales continued and the funds raised during that time directly helped and supported their family. Then a few years ago, we found out that another young boy living in the Queen’s Park area also received palliative care and subsequently passed away at Canuck Place. Once again, this family was helped in their time of need by the community through the dollars donated during the Queen’s Park Garage Sale. Families receive all the services provided (accommodation, respite, cooked meals, psychological & emotional support, etc.) at no charge, a blessing at such a vulnerable time in a family’s life.

Now the tradition continues. On the Saturday of the Mother’s Day weekend, May 11, people from all over the Lower Mainland will crowd the streets of Queen’s Park for the 18th annual sale. It starts at 9:00am and continues until 4:00pm.

Some are there for the deals; others come to get a glimpse and walk around one of the area’s favourite heritage neighbourhoods. New Westminster—“The Royal City”–and once our provincial capital, is a great place to view Victorian and Arts & Crafts era heritage homes and bungalows.

The families who host the sales do so for many reasons. One woman told me it’s a way to clear out her house each year and she knows the funds she donates will be going to a good cause. Another told me she does it because she never wants to take her children’s health for granted.

But it’s the children who touch my heart the most–the kids with the cookie or lemonade stands and a big sign that says “All funds go to Canuck Place” or “In support of Canukc [sic] Place.” Over the years parents have told me they encourage their children to participate because it teaches them about civic responsibility and how giving back to their community and to a facility like Canuck Place is important. It’s children helping children.

One final reason why I will never miss the neighbourhood garage sale? It’s my opportunity to thank garage sale participants. Sometimes it’s awkward because people don’t know what to say when I tell them who I am and why I’m thankful for their support. But that human connection is always worth the effort because it is a concrete way to express the great appreciation and esteem held in my family’s hearts for what the people of Queen’s Park have done for us and others in our time of profound distress and need.

Now through this post, I have the opportunity to say thank you more publicly. I also want to thank Frank Wright for the years he sponsored the event and now Dave Vallee and his team who have taken up the cause. If you are a participant in the sale, thank you from my heart to yours, for cleaning out your house and supporting the families who use Canuck Place. If you live in the Lower Mainland and have purchased or intend to purchase items at the sale, thank you too.

On that note, for those who plan to attend this year–please spend, spend, spend! How often do you get to do something so entertaining and fun and be certain that the funds donated really do make a difference in people’s lives?

Canuck Place has made it possible for many families like mine to go through the loss of a child and come out the other side mentally and emotionally healthy. For the many families who have benefited from your support through the Queen’s Park Garage Sale, that old adage, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” has never been more true or carried such deep meaning.

Get to know New West in a hurry!

On May 11th, New Westminster will go high speed. 

QuestNewWest_logoThat’s because Quest New West, a car-free, team-based race across the city kicks off for its inaugural event. Participants will complete a series of challenges and follow clues around the city for their chance to win a $500 cash prize in the event.

The event is being brought to the city by NEXT New West in partnership with Tourism New Westminster and Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area and is being organized by a small group of volunteers, made up on local residents and business owners (like me!).
“We’re excited to bring this amazing race to New Westminster,” says Tej Kainth, founder of NEXT New West and Executive Director of Tourism New Westminster. “It’s going to be a fun-filled day for the whole community.”
The morning will feature a short and easy race from 9:00 a.m. to noon for families with young children. Though the family race participants are not eligible for the $500 prize, there will be giveaways for all participants and the registration fee is just $25 per family. Using clues with trivia, math, and activities that feature endurance, strength, and smarts, this is a perfect way to work together as a family and get out and enjoy our city. Plus, we know families come in all sizes and shapes – so if you define yourself as a family, you’re in! 
From 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., teams of 2-4 adults will race across the city in a faster, more challenging event that will put them to the test physically and mentally for their chance to win a $500 cash prize. The cost for the adult event is $25 a person. “Quest New West is a great chance to highlight many of our city’s businesses and organizations,” says Kendra Johnston, Executive Director at Downtown New Westminster BIA. “We’re looking forward to exposing residents and visitors to some of the great things happening across New Westminster.”
Like so many other great community events, this one is happening because many local businesses are stepping up to be a part of this fun day. While we are keeping the specific activities a secret, businesses like Hawkes Martial Arts, The Stage New Westminster, New West Cycle, New West Artists, and graphic designer Johanna Bartels (who donated our logo design) are a small sample of the businesses supporting the race in various ways – without businesses like them we couldn’t put this great event on – so please make sure you support them and thank them for their efforts.
The day will conclude with a wrap-up party at Wild Rice, and regular readers will know how much we here at Tenth love that place. 
To register or fore more info, check out the details on the eventbrite page: questnewwest2013.eventbrite.ca.

Flowers and tomatoes offered at annual Kiwanis hanging basket sale May 11

In New West, hanging baskets are a traditional Mother’s Day present. After all, why buy a bouquet when you can give flowers that will last all season long? Once again, the Kiwanis Club of New Westminster will be holding their annual hanging basket sale on the day before Mother’s Day (Saturday, May 11) from 10am – 3pm in the parking lot of the Terminal Pub. This year, there will also be cherry tomatoes for sale – and a contest to see who can get the best yield from their cherry tomato plant.

Hanging baskets will be sold for $25 each, with all profits supporting New Westminster charitable causes, including the Lord Kelvin Breakfast Program, St. Barnabas Lunch Program, Monarch House, New Westminster Ambassador Program, Purpose Society, and the New Westminster Secondary School Bursary. Cherry tomato plants will cost $10.

Participants in the cherry tomato growing contest will compare the number of cherry tomatoes on their plants at harvest time. The person with the most cherry tomatoes on their plant on September 8 will win a prize. Any surplus tomatoes will be donated to Plant a Row / Grow A Row.

For more information, phone 604-521-8567. 

 

B.C. Election in bloom

Vote!

Voting time is coming near again! The B.C. provincial election will be held on May 14, 2013. 

Amid rainshowers and spring flowers, I’m starting to see orange election signs sprouting in my neighbourhood, with shades of red, blue, green (and more) soon to follow I’m sure. Yes, it’s election time again in B.C. and New Westminster candidates will soon be stepping up their door-knocking, robocalling and energetic presence at local events.

On Tenth to the Fraser, we always try to do our part to help New West folk get to know the candidates and issues around election time, and while we probably have to scale back our efforts this year due to personal scheduling conflicts involving a certain sure-to-be demanding newborn, there will be some voter goodness coming your way.

Specifically, we are collaborating with New Westminster Environmental Partners and NEXT New West to organize a unique event: an  All-Candidates Jane’s Walk starting at 5:30pm on May 4. Our groups have joined forces before, organizing both traditional and non-traditional local all-candidates events, and we’re always thinking about new ways to make voting and political engagement less intimidating and more fun. Here’s the description of the event:

All New Westminster residents are invited to gather at SappertonPark (at the corner of East Columbia Street and Sherbrooke Street) at 5:30 on Saturday evening. The four candidates will be introduced, and the group will walk along Columbia Street and the Central Valley Greenway to Downtown New Westminster and the River Market (a distance of about 3.5 km, so about an hour walking at a leisurely pace).

Along the way, each of the candidates will be given an opportunity for their 5 minutes “on the soapbox” to address the crowd, but the emphasis will be on face-to-face and small group conversations during the walk. Participants will be encouraged to chat with the candidates and ask their own questions. There will also be a few surprises along the way to encourage a meaningful dialogue!

At the end of the walk, participants and candidates will be encouraged, as is the NEXT New West tradition, to gather at a local pub and continue the conversation.

Pat Johnstone will emcee (if you don’t already read his blog, you should!), and all previously declared candidates have agreed to participate:

James Crosty has only just announced he’s running as an independent candidate, but hopefully he will also be able to find time in his campaign schedule to join us on the walk. 

Jane’s Walks are a global event celebrating the legacy of celebrated urban thinker and pedestrian advocate Jane Jacobs, held on the first weekend in May to coincide with Jane’s birthday. The walks are free tours, guided by knowledgeable locals to highlight interesting places and neighbourhoods. This is the first year that New Westminster has participated in the event, but there are already ten walks organized for that weekend, and possibly even more to come!

Bracing for impact …

One week from now, I am expecting to welcome my third little baby into this world. It could happen sooner, of course, or later, but either way, this is the home stretch. After having had two already, I’m fully aware that my life is about to change (again) in ways I can’t predict. I’m writing this note so you’re not left wondering if I go quiet for a while.

The fact is, I don’t really know what will happen on the blog over the next few months after the baby is born. With my older son and daughter, the postpartum period was a surprisingly rich one for me, not only as a mother but as a person and citizen.  After my first baby, I spent a lot more time in the community, rather than in an office tower in Vancouver or Burnaby. My experience of trying (and mostly failing) to make connections with other parents and explore my city was the seed of the idea for Tenth to the Fraser. After my second was born, I helped to organize Summerfest In Grimston Park, an annual community-building event in the West End. So I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the coming months – all that time breastfeeding and rocking babies in the night provides a lot of room for thinking and planning.

On the other hand, I also remember how hard it was to find time for doing. It was worse with my first than with my second: I was not only unskilled at domestic labour (I never liked keeping house or cooking) but also unprepared for just how much time a baby can need, and how brief the periods of rest can be between feeding, rocking, changing and comforting an infant. Oddly, it was easier with two. I was more accustomed to the domestic labour that begins after the baby is born. I didn’t expect to have much time for anything, and so I was much more efficient in using the time I had. Time also passes more quickly when you have older children to keep you busy. I held my daughter and played with my son, and we all were happy together. But three children and the demands of school and activity schedules are a whole other ball game. Time for ‘doing’ will be dear.

I don’t know what this will mean for Tenth to the Fraser. Regular readers will know that the frequency of posts has dropped, as I have been preoccupied with running my business and caring for my family, but it is hard to say how things will change over the coming months and years. I may find I have more to say, or less. There may be more people who step forward with guest posts, or less. I may get better at juggling the various demands on my time, or I may need to scale back for a time to keep my sanity! Hopefully those of you who look forward to posts on this blog will be patient while I find my new ‘normal’ after the baby.

One thing I can be sure of: I am very happy to be raising my little brood in this community over any other.

Health & wellness highlighted at ‘Spring Cleaning’ event this Saturday

This Saturday, April 13, River Market is hosting “Spring Cleaning for the Mind, Body & Soul,” a health & wellness fair featuring New Westminster businesses and organizations. The event is the brainchild of Zhoosh Fitness‘s Robyn Murrell, who recruited several friends from New Westminster’s B2B NOW (Business To Business Network of Women) group to help organize.

Highlights of the event will include:

  • Try acupuncture, reiki, Shiatsu and even pole fitness – all exhibitors were required to include an interactive component to keep things interesting
  • Demonstrations of various activities, including Hula Hoop Fitness, Zumba and Bollywood dancing
  • Children’s activities at The Music Box in River Market while parents roam the displays
  • ‘Get Active’ photobooth
  • Gift bags for the first 100 people attending the event
  • Charitable fundraising: raffle and sale of daffodil pins benefiting the Canadian Cancer Society (BC & Yukon chapter), plus a “Spring Shave”

For more information on the Spring Cleaning event, email springcleaningnewwest@gmail.com and/or goto the event Facebook page. For more on B2B NOW, email b2bnewwest@gmail.com. 

 

Learning to Sew in New Westminster

At some point last fall I got the itch to start sewing.

I began dreaming about crafting my own clothes, mending existing garments and having the overall knowledge to begin a sewing project. Without any previous sewing experience, I got anxious and worried who to ask to teach me or to lend me their machine to practice on. I was prepared to self-teach and hope for the best.

But then, thanks to Google, I discovered Sew Good, a home-based business in Sapperton that offers a range of sewing classes for beginners like me. After the pre-requisite search for online reviews (all positive and encouraging), I signed up for an Intro Beginners class in February and committed to four three-hour evening sessions. My first project was a 6-panel, elastic waist skirt. Fancy.

The owner-operator, Carley Struve, is a friendly and extremely patient instructor who put me at ease instantly.  Her basement is retro-fitted into a sewing studio with four newer Janome electronic sewing machines, cutting tables, ironing boards and irons, and an assortment of other sewing paraphernalia. The small class sizes enables a lot of one-on-one time with Carley and the opportunity to converse with the other students while making sense of patterns, fabric choice, threading machines, etc.

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I loved learning how to sew in a supportive and fun environment. I enjoyed the camaraderie and shared experiences with the gals I was sewing with, but best of all was that I was doing it so close to home and not stuck in my car traveling across the Lower Mainland. However, some people don’t mind driving; I was the only student in all three of the classes I have taken in the past three months who has lived in New Westminster. I was really surprised to hear that people were traveling from other cities in the Greater Vancouver area to attend these classes. I think that says a lot for the quality of sewing classes offered at SewGood.

 photo

I would consider myself a confident beginner sewer now and I am tackling projects at home on my new sewing machine (a mid-range Husqvarna, if you must know!), but I am still enrolled in classes at SewGood because:

  1. I like learning with other people; contributing ideas and questions within a group reinforces the information
  2. The projects all involve new technical aspects that I likely would have not taught myself
  3. It’s a night out once a week that I look forward to (and it’s a quick 5 minute drive)

I think Sew Good is a great place to learn to sew and to continue your sewing education. The SewGood Facebook page is kept current and includes inspiring photos of students projects and class updates.

Here’s hoping you begin or continue your sewing journey with as much pleasure as I have had.

 

Note: Andra was not asked to write this article, nor did SewGood compensate her in any way. 

Network with local entrepreneurs at LAUNCH! New West

New West has a thriving culture of entrepreneurship, but I haven’t seen it celebrated and encouraged as much as I’d like.  Hopefully that’s about to change.

Small business is critical to New Westminster’s economy and culture. Of the 2864 business licenses issued to residents, 2452 have gone to small businesses, which means that approximately 85% of New West based businesses are small businesses. At both the municipal and provincial level, government is trying to do more to support local entrepreneurs launch, grow and thrive.

On Tuesday, March 26, Jen and I are hosting LAUNCH! New Westminster, a free, informal mixer for local business owners and ‘someday’ entrepreneurs to network with each other, learn more about City and Provincial initiatives to support small businesses, and share their thoughts and ideas on the subject.  The event is from 6-8pm in River Market‘s Food Hall. Light refreshments will be provided, and beer & wine will be available for purchase at a cash bar. While the event is free, registration is required as space is limited. Participants can register online using Eventbrite at http://businessinnewwest.eventbrite.ca.

The focus of the evening will be conversational, with lots of time for networking and dialogue. We’ll kick off with a brief Q&A with BC Minister of State for Small Business Naomi Yamamoto, as well as Acting Mayor Jaimie McEvoy, City of New Westminster Economic Development Manager Blair Fryer, and Councillor Bill Harper, who chairs the City’s Economic Development Committee. Jen and I will moderate the discussion (let us know in the comments or via Twitter if you’ve got any questions you want us to ask!). After that, it’s a party – go chat with friends, meet some new folks, or talk one-on-one with the Minister, Mayor or Councillor.

While the timing of the event is close to provincial election time, our goal isn’t to promote any particular candidate or party, but rather to open a dialogue that will hopefully continue well past the election. We’ll hear from the officials on what they are doing, but there will also be opportunities to ask questions and share ideas in open Q&A, and an ideas wall where people can write down their thoughts, suggestions and comments on small business issues.

From my perspective as an entrepreneur with a small business based in New West, I believe that attracting entrepreneurs and helping them to thrive and grow will benefit our community, culture and economy. It should be a cornerstone of the City’s economic development strategy. Hopefully this event will be a small step in the right direction. I hope to see you there!

New West Needs Great Service Businesses Too! Limina Spa

When my husband and I first moved to New Westminster, in September 2011, all the talk was about how New Westminster needed some new business that weren’t Dollar Stores, Car Repair shops and Bridal Boutiques. Since then, a lot of great new businesses have come to New West- bringing more quality products and services.

Often the talk about the quality of the businesses revolves around restaurants and retail establishments. But New Westminster needs more then great restaurants. Susan, owner of Limina Spa, believes it’s time for New Westminster residents to have access to high quality spa services without having to travel into Vancouver. Susan is eager to get the word out about her spa and the quality services and experience it provides. Recently, she invited Jen Arbo and myself to come and experience her spa first hand.

When talking with Susan it is clear that she loves the community here in New West and is passionate about her business. Since she opened in about a year and half a go at the Shops at New West Station, she has seen a fair amount of construction outside her door- something she worries may be impacting potential customers from discovering her Spa. But she believes strongly she has something unique to offer New Westminster.

I was excited to try out Limina Spa—it has been a while since I had gone for a massage. For me, going to a spa is about the whole experience- not just the service itself. I love the calming music, sense of peace, smell of subtle natural essential oils. I like to go somewhere that has a great atmosphere and has clearly thought about the details.

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Limina Spa did not disappoint. The hot stone massage I had was amazing- one of the best massages I have had—and I have visited top spa’s in both Vancouver and Calgary.  Susan explained to me that many places just place the hot stones to warm up the skin and increase circulation- they do it a bit differently- they actually use the stones in the massage itself.

Jen said “The facial I had at Limina Spa was seriously the best facial I have ever had, and I am a spa junkie and have had a lot of facials. It was relaxing, all encompassing, and I felt completely taken care of during the facial. It was customized to me personally, and I walked out of there positively glowing.”

I noticed while I was in the spa that they had been named by the New West News Leader as a finalist of one of the best places to get a facial in New Westminster in 2012- so obviously Jen is one among many who feel that way. Their pedicure lounge is lovely and would be great to book for a pedicure party for a bridal shower, birthday party or other celebration.

The prices Limina Spa charges are higher then other places to get similar services in New West, but are very much in line with prices elsewhere in the Lower Mainland. To offset it they offer an Elite Membership ($29/yr) which gets you about 10-15% off the regular price of spa services. Each month, members are also offered a special at a further discounted rate— March’s special combines a full body exfoliation with a massage for maximum pampering.

Overall, Limina Spa is the type of business I want to support: local, run by a dedicated small business owner and offering quality to New Westminster.

Limina Spa

263-800 Carnarvon Street
The Plaza at New West Station

Hours:
Monday 10am-6pm
Tuesday 10am-6pm
Wednesday 11am-7pm
Thursday 10am-6pm
Friday 10am-6pm
Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday By Appointments

(604) 525-0805
info@liminaspa.com
Facebook
Twitter

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Disclosure: Jen and I received spa services at no charge as a part of Limina’s invitation (facial, hot stone massage, pedicures, and underarm waxing). We were not asked to write this article. All opinions expressed are our own. 

What does a ‘sustainable’ future look like for New West? [Update on Envision 2032]

Lots of great ideas came out of Envision 2032's Sustainability Fair in November. Photo: Julia Dykstra

Lots of great ideas came out of Envision 2032′s Sustainability Fair in November. Photo: Julia Dykstra

The City of New Westminster is creating its first sustainability plan, dubbed Envision 2032. The year 2032 is one generation from now – a length of time that is easy for people to imagine when making decisions that affect the future. When completed, Envision 2032 will be a sustainability “lens,” used to review plans, policies, projects and practices.

A Sustainability Fair was held at the Inn at the Quay in November as part of the Envision 2032 process. Those who could not attend the workshop were able to provide input via an online survey as well as view  presentations and video clips from the event on the Envision 2032 website.

The feedback from the initial community outreach was analyzed by the City’s sustainability team to identify key themes and an initial set of “Descriptions of Success” has now been created for discussion purposes that are intended to reflect the consensus for these themes in each policy area. Once reviewed by the community and feedback is addressed, updated Descriptions of Success will be provided to City Council for consideration. When they are approved, the Descriptions of Success will form the foundation of Envision 2032, describing the sustainable future that we will all be working towards. You can provide feedback on the Descriptions of Success online via an online survey (note: survey closes on March 15).

Participation in November’s community outreach events was strong. With over 90 people at the Friday evening “Let’s Talk Sustainability” event and 80 people at the Saturday morning sustainability visioning workshop, Sustainability Fair events were well attended in spite of the gloomy weather outside. A further 90 people provided input online as well.

The audience for “Let’s Talk Sustainability” included Council members and representatives of the City’s social, cultural, business and environmental communities, along with a healthy contingent of interested individuals. Participants were treated to innovative video shorts on sustainability and an eclectic mix of speakers providing insights on different aspects of sustainability, including:

  • Lori Baxter, former manager of the 2010 Legacies Now arts program for the Vancouver Olympics and executive director of the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture, stressed the importance of arts, culture and heritage in creating vibrant communities.
  • Judith Cullington, City of Colwood Councillor, explained how the “Solar Colwood” initiative was implemented using a community outreach and engagement process involving multiple community partners.
  • Jerry Dobrovolny, Director of Transportation for the City of Vancouver and former City Councillor for New Westminster, described the steps leading to Vancouver’s success with integrating land use and transportation and achieving transformational change through the use of targets.
  • Darlene Gering, President of 2012 BC Seniors Games, Chair of the Burnaby Art Gallery and former President and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade, focused on applying triple bottom line thinking (i.e., social, cultural, economic and environmental) into decision making, including social enterprises.
  • Patrick Johnstone, a municipal Environmental Coordinator and past-president of the New Westminster Environmental Partners, challenged the audience to take strong action, both individually and collectively, to protect and enhance the environment in the context New Westminster’s urban setting.
  • Virginia Weiler, Chair of VanCity, outlined the role of business and the financial sector in creating a sustainable community and provided an example of how VanCity uses community sustainability in its lending practices

At the Saturday visioning workshop, there was a high level of understanding and support for what Envision 2032 is (i.e., a sustainability “filter” or “lens” that will be applied to what we do in the future) and how the process steps work:

  1. Decide where we want to be in the future
  2. Determine where we are now
  3. Identify actions to move us from where we are now to where we want to be
  4. Track and report on progress towards our desired future using key indicators

Workshop participants had an opportunity to attend two visioning sessions for the eleven defined policy areas, covering everything from land use to transportation, culture, the economy, social issues and the environment and answer the basic question: “What does it look like in 2032 if we are successful and sustainable in this policy area?” This simple exercise unleashed a wave of creativity and for over two hours post-it notes with hundreds of vision statements were flying around the room.

After the workshop, an online version of the visioning exercise was available for another month and responses from 90 people were received. Between the workshop and the survey, over 80 pages of visioning input from the community were documented and this is available on envision2032.ca.

We need your help now to let us know if we’ve captured the right vision for New Westminster! An online Description of Success survey will take you through each of the eleven policy areas and provide you with the opportunity to review, confirm or enhance the vision. You can provide input on as many or as few of the policy areas as you’d like.

The survey closes on March 15th, 2013, so don’t delay, we want to hear from you!

Hidden gems in Downtown New West

I like to support businesses in my neighbourhood of Downtown New Westminster. Many places make this easy for me to do: River Market, Zoom Hair Salon and Columbia Integrated Health Centre, for example, are active on social media and in the community and have curb appeal to spare. They are all fabulous and I can’t recommend any of them enough.

But then there are businesses that I walk past every day and never enter. They aren’t out there promoting themselves and they just don’t look like they have a lot to offer. But then, one day, I go in and realize how badly I’ve misjudged them.

These hidden gems that have been quietly providing a high standard of service to the community, at reasonable prices, without a lot of fanfare, and it’s about time they get some love. Here are three of my favorites:

Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut!

Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut! Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Agnes Barber & Stylist
607 Agnes Street 778.397.0460

Agnes Barber might look like any other barbershop in the neighbourhood (which rival wedding boutiques in number) but it’s hands-down the best place to bring your squirmy toddler boy for a haircut.

I used to take my kids to a fancy-pants kids’ hair salon at the mall. They would get a 10-minute haircut and a balloon, and I’d pay $60 for the two of them, after taxes and tip. Ouch! So when I spotted the motorcycle chair through the window at Agnes Barber, I took a chance.

Our barber, Kal, was one of the most patient and pleasant people I’ve ever met. Despite having people waiting, he took his time introducing my four-year-old to the “scary” electric shaver and stayed upbeat and cheerful while my little guy squirmed and fidgeted. My two-year-old, meanwhile, HATES getting his haircut and was in full meltdown mode. Kal dismissed my apologies and wasn’t fazed at all. His skilled hands worked very quickly to get the job done while he remained calm and soothing.

Both kids got great haircuts! Despite their best efforts to walk out with bald patches, their hair looked flawless. They got to sit on a motorcycle, wore a Disney cape and each walked out with a lollypop. They also enjoyed counting the birds the huge birdcage by the window. And to top it off, kids’ cuts cost only $10! You won’t be seeing me at the mall salon again.

Agnes Barber & Stylist is open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 10am-5pm

 

Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Columbia Square Law Office

833 Carnarvon Street
604.526.6352
tjhewitt@cslaw.ca

I needed some notary services recently. My husband called around for rates and, to our surprise, discovered that the most reasonable rates (for a variety of legal services, not just notary) were right in our own neighbourhood at Columbia Square Law Office.

I went down to the office with trepidation. The exterior really does leave something to be desired. The bars on the windows, the drawn shades… it was all kind of off-putting. My opinion quickly changed when I walked through the door. The receptionist, Barbara, was instantly welcoming and made me feel like my time was valuable and that I was respected.

My personal experience with lawyers has shown me that being listened to and treated with respect is the best indication of how happy I’m going to be with the outcome of my legal representation. In this case, my interaction with Mike Jukic, one of the firm’s two lawyers was brief, but my gut told me that if I were in need of legal representation again, I could count on him to come through for me.

For any future legal services, I’m heading straight to Columbia Square Law Office.

Columbia Law Office is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, and Sat 10am-4pm

Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Unit 109-1015 Columbia Street (Columbia Square Plaza)
604.521.5572
columbiasq.ah@gmail.com

Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is tucked away in the northeast corner of Columbia Square Plaza, by the Rona. Open the door and you’ll see a desk covered in brochures and samples, there are hard-backed chairs and stacks of pet food for sale. Nothing about the place seems particularly warm or inviting.

And then you meet Dr. Brar.

Dr. Brar is an amazing vet. He handles my kitty with gentle, but expert hands. He asks lots of questions and takes the time to address any concerns. And, unlike, other vets I’ve encountered in the past, I never get the feeling that he’s trying to upsell me on products or services. In fact, Columbia Square Animal Hospital’s prices are very fair (about half of what my last vet charged!) When I’m there, I feel like the focus is on providing the best possible care for my kitty and not on making a profit.

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is open daily, 8am-10pm

What New West businesses do you feel are overlooked? Sound off in the comments!

SpudShack: Fitting a Vision Into New West

You don’t know how bad French fries can be until you have amazing French fries. When a number of locals were all atwitter and agog to learn that the Spud Shack Fry Co. was opening up at the Shops at New West Station, I kind of shrugged my shoulders. I mean, I didn’t get why this was a big deal. They’re just fries, right?

Wrong.

Call them fancy French Fries or call them by their proper name of Belgian Frités, but either way, you need to head to Spud Shack and become one of the converted, just like me. Owner Dan Close has perfected the art of the deep fried potato stick; both crispy and fluffy, perfectly salted, and well portioned, the hand cut Belgian frités are, in a word, superb. The Spud Shack has quickly woven its way into my brain as one of the best places for a meal and a brew in New Westminster.

Nachos made with Belgian frites

Nachos made with Belgian frites

My frist trip to SpudShack I tried the cod and chips ($11). Served in simple metal trays, the meal featured a big portion of fish (Dan cuts and weighs each piece by hand), delectable batter, and a generous serving of frités, with a pretty amazing tartar sauce. I’ve tried the frité-chos ($10 for the small) – nachos on a tray with generous and unexpected toppings such as pickled red onions – and found them really satisfying. I’ve gone for the poutine ($5 for the small) and found it the perfect ratio of gravy:curds:potatoes. We’ve had the naked frités on their own ($4 for a medium), too, with a side of  bacon mayonnaise ($1) for dipping that was great.

The Spud Shack offers high quality craft beer on tap and in bottles, as well as craft sodas and juices, and just recently started serving desserts. Right now there are two on offer – a chocolate pot de creme with brown sugar whipping cream ($4), and a house made donut with almond praline served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce ($7). It is, as Briana said,  “the best dessert on offer in New West. Period.”

Housemade donut with marhsmallows, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and house made almond praline

Housemade donut with marhsmallows, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and house made almond praline

Now, for me, what makes a place a favourite isn’t just the menu or the location. I think I’m a pretty decent cook, and I’m willing to travel to inconvenient places for good eats, so those factors are nice, but they aren’t the be all end all for me. What wins me over is a compelling combination of factors – selection and quality of the menu and liquid accompaniments, price, location, decor, and ambience are all standard criteria. The Spud Shack does a good job for me on all fronts. The wood decor and murals look good, there are multiple seating choices including a cozier low table set up and standard wood tables and chairs. I’m grateful they don’t succumb to the temptation to use styrofoam tableware and instead opt for paper cones and actual ceramic bowls and metal plates, metal cutlery, and glasses not made from cardboard, emblazoned with a logo, or featuring a plastic lid. While there are TVs (a pet peeve for me when I eat) the social atmosphere and high placement of the TVs make them mostly unobtrusive.

What will ultimately tip a place into “favourite” status for me is something a bit more than the food or how a place looks. I believe favourite haunts are welcoming and encourage you to visit rather than simply patronize. These are places we see in pop culture: Boston had  Cheers, the Friends cast had Central Perk, and The Beachcombers had Molly’s Reach (I’m dating myself with that one, aren’t I?). New West needs those, too.  A place where everyone is welcome, and where the ownership “gets” the community. Places that are open and receptive to feedback.

Cases in point: when I stopped in on my first visit, I asked about a kid’s choice on the menu. While my 4 year old is a good eater and likes fries, the fish and chips is a bit too big for him. Dan was incredibly accommodating, and said next time we were in to mention we wanted a kids’ portion and he’d fix us up. And he did – small fish nuggets on a smaller portion of fries at a reduced rate. He also picked up a couple of high chairs and is happy to put one of the TVs on the cartoon channel for his younger diners if requested. When we enquired if wine was going to be offered (thinking about future drinks-and-desserts potential), he showed us where the shelving was going to be installed. When we asked about a size between the small and medium poutine, he said he was hunting for the right bowl. When local vegan crusader Melissa approached him about keeping vegan “cheese” on hand so vegans could enjoy his poutine too, he said “where can I buy it?”

This is the kind of business I can get behind. There are others in our community doing it well already that I try to celebrate them, and I’m excited to have another one I can choose from. As an owner, Dan is positive, optimist, and welcoming. He’s not trying to fit New West into his vision, he’s trying to fit his vision into New West.

And he makes magic with potatoes.

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The Spud Shack Fry Co is located at 352-800 Carnarvon Street, on the east bound Skytrain platform at the Shops at New West Station. Give them a call at 604-553-2582, or check them out on their website, Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.

We’ve organized a Family Day evening meetup at the SpudShack this Monday coming, February 11th, from 5pm onward. Dan’s agreed to offer some special combos and menu items. Check our Facebook event for details and to RSVP

 

Discovering the joys of putting food by

First jar of mustard!

The first jar from our batch of spicy bourbon-spiked mustard.

Yesterday I spent the day chopping and cooking enormous quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit for Can-O-Rama, a full-day canning work bee with friends. We steamed up the kitchen, cooking up a spicy bourbon-spiked mustard on one burner while aromatic pear butter simmered on another and mixed-vegetable pickles processed in the canner’s hot water bath.

Until last summer I had never really given much thought to canning, but now I’ve caught the bug. My cupboards are starting to fill up with home-canned jams, condiments and other preserves, and canning has become a semi-regular social hobby for me and my friends.

It’s not something I would have expected to enjoy as much as I do. Growing up in suburbia, I never needed to learn traditional skills for making and preserving food staples. As for many others in my generation, the chain of knowledge passing down home-preserving and other handicrafts from mother to daughter broke with my parents’ move to the city. Canning, knitting, sewing and other ‘maker’ skills just didn’t seem relevant anymore.

My grandmother spent summers industriously putting food up for the winter. Living in Ontario on a single mining company salary with five children to feed, my grandparents made their dollars stretch by growing or producing as much of their own food as possible. Their eggs came from backyard chickens. Blueberries were a seasonal indulgence, involving a bit of a hike up to the bushes by the beaver pond, and many of their fruits and vegetables came from the garden. For my mother’s family, canning and preserving was an important part of the work of summer to ensure that food was not wasted, and that the family would not have to spend unnecessary dollars when the snow fell.

These are only *some* of the jars we need to prep for Can-O-Rama

These are only some of the jars we needed to sterilize & prep for Can-O-Rama

My own childhood could not have been more different. I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood in Coquitlam. Our garden was decorative, save for a few strawberry plants that the birds and bugs often pillaged before we could enjoy the red berries, and a pot of chives we grew on the windowsill. Food came from the grocery store. Healthy food was important, so we ate a lot of simply cooked low-fat, low-sodium and low-sugar meals. My mother tells me she did attempt canning one year, spending a hot, sweaty day putting up pounds of peaches in jars. The recipe was a low-sugar one, of course, and the result was apparently inedible. Aside from a successful batch of blackberry freezer jam we made one year, I don’t have any memories of making food staples from scratch or putting food by.

So you might imagine my mother and aunts’ surprise when they learned I’ve taken up canning. A city girl canning for fun may seem an indulgent oddity, like digging a backyard well or scrubbing clothes with a washboard in the bathtub despite having a perfectly good washing machine. The labour of canning was part of the sweaty, difficult farm work they left behind when they embraced city life.

And it’s true that my experience of it has been as a canning dilettante. A good part of the appeal is social – most of my canning has been done as part of a work bee with friends – but I also enjoy being able to control what goes into the food we eat, as well as the foodie thrill of discovering new and unusual flavour combinations.

I don’t love canning everything. I found putting up tomatoes to be a lot of work and without the thrill I got from jam-making. Despite it being a relatively frugal way to enjoy high-quality, locally grown, organic tomatoes year round, if I ever do it again it’ll be for the social side, not really for the end product. Saving money and making my own healthier alternatives to commercially processed foods are definitely less compelling for me than creating a taste I can find nowhere else.

Packing vegetables in jars for pickling

Packing vegetables in jars for pickling

I learned to can last summer with a few friends under Jen Arbo‘s wing. Jen grew up in a small Vancouver Island town, where she learned many traditional skills including canning. We organized a berry-picking day with our families at a local farm and brought home enormous quantities of ripe raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. After putting aside some berries for eating and baking, we poured ourselves some wine and set to work canning three types of jam: raspberry, mixed berry jam and a luscious blueberry-lime. It was sweaty work, and the product was not particularly healthy (you have no idea how much sugar is in jam until you make it yourself!) but it was the most delicious jam I’ve ever tasted.

Since that first canning session, I’ve made more jams with friends, as well as on my own. I’ve learned that my favourite canning projects are made with berries I’ve picked, or found fruit from my neighbours’ overly enthusiastic trees. I also love experimenting with healthier recipes and new flavours. My personal favourite recipe was a lower-sugar blackberry lime jam made with neighbourhood berries picked by my husband and kids one summer day.

I still have some of that first jam in my cupboard, and literally every time I spread it on my toast and take a bite it brings back memories of helping my children pick fat blueberries with their little fingers, and hours spent laughing and talking with some of my favourite people in New West. No store-bought product can compare.

Like an old house, New West is blessed with ‘good bones’

Leafy Columbia Street.

Leafy Columbia Street. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Although many think of it as a suburb of Vancouver, New West was born a city – one of the first on this part of the coast. It thrived in a time before automobiles remade the landscape and transformed our streets from social spaces to thoroughfares. It’s one of the reasons New West’s sense of community is so strong. But it also creates friction between people concerned with regional traffic needs and those who advocate for liveability within our community.

While the commercial centre of the Lower Mainland has moved downtown and (to our chagrin) the political centre remains in Victoria, our birthright has gifted us with some of the best elements of old-fashioned city planning. New West’s decline during the peak age of the auto may actually have been a blessing in disguise, allowing our city to escape some of the missteps of suburbs planned in the highway’s glory days.

Driven by both environmental concerns and new research on what makes communities thrive, there is a movement to retrofit auto-centric suburbs to become more walkable and compact. Luckily, like many of our old houses, New West may have its problems, but it is blessed with good bones.

Many parts of New West already fit the ‘new’ model of compact planning, but misguided attempts to accommodate road traffic within community streets have compromised livability in some areas. Just as many of our heritage homes were blemished by ‘modern’ renovations in the ’70s and ’80s, the appeal of many of New Westminster’s original neighbourhoods have been diminished by retrofitting to accommodate road traffic. It’s time to peel back the shag rug and restore the lustre of our streets.

Streets that welcome people are designed differently from those that merely accommodate them. They are usually narrower, with shorter blocks, and move at slower speeds. The best streets are diverse and let people move quickly between various types of zones: from home to work to cafes to shops. In New West you can see this dynamic at work Uptown. The leafy boulevards of Queens Park and the apartment blocks of the Brow are a short – and very pleasant – walk to several parks, the library, grocery stores, cafes, offices, restaurants and the public transit hub at Sixth & Sixth.

The volume of traffic that funnels through New West from car-centric developments in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey and beyond is challenging to accommodate within our small borders. One reason why our commercial districts Downtown, in Sapperton, and on 12th St. and 20th St. struggle is because their identity is confused. They aspire to be thriving commercial streets while also moving road traffic. This identity crisis results in an environment that is not fully satisfactory for anyone.

Streets and roads have very different goals: a street is a destination, and part of a walkable community. A road is intended to move car traffic quickly from one place to another.

In the Downtown, several improvements have been made to try to enhance the streetscape and make it more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians, but attempts to placate the road lobby hold back Columbia Street’s renaissance as a neighbourhood destination. Front Street is clearly a ‘road’ and while it would be great to have unobstructed access to the waterfront, Front is a vital road connection. It looks to me like the City is taking a pragmatic approach to dealing with this problem by providing alternative pedestrian access to the Pier Park and waterfront. This attention to walkability, neighbourhood character and streetscape is needed in all our neighbourhoods.

Investing in our neighbourhoods will pay off in both liveability and economic strength. Recent studies show that cyclists and pedestrians actually outspend drivers at local businesses. While they may spend less per trip (because it’s harder to carry items home), commercial zones that are bike- and people-friendly draw more repeat business.

This consumer loyalty supports community connection as well. As neighbourhood regulars get to know each other, the social connection provides added incentive for customers to return. You can see this dynamic at work at River Market, the Coming Home Cafe, and at many of our local coffee shops as well. As Jeff Speck wrote in The Walkable City, “Creating a higher quality of life is the first step to attracting new residents and jobs. This is why … all the fancy economic development strategies, such as developing a biomedical cluster, an aerospace cluster, or whatever the current economic development ‘flavor of the month’ might be, do not hold a candle to the power of a great walkable urban place.”

Streets were originally places for gossip, commerce and play, not just for moving people and goods. Moving people and goods is important, of course, and provides such a clear economic payoff that our grandfathers and grandmothers willingly made room for the horseless carriages. But when we made room for cars in our cities, we underestimated the impact on public spaces. Planners must have thought that if it was good to move quickly by car from place to place, surely moving more cars more quickly would be even better. But the impact on community and the local economy has been disastrous.

There is no sense of community from within an automobile. From the driver’s vantage point, pedestrians, bicycles, children and other vehicles are too easily abstracted. They are seen as obstructions, not neighbours. It’s easy to forget there are people within each little pod on the road, and impossible to make more than the briefest connection (via honking, hand signals, a brief moment of eye contact) with those you are sharing the road with.

Reclaiming community streets and dedicating routes for road traffic is an essential part of our evolution as we continue to build the ‘new’ New West.

A blog about life in New Westminster