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Cool off with Loonie Skates at Moody Park Arena this summer

When the heat is just too much, New Westminster has a great option to cool off: Summer Loonie Skates at Moody Park Arena.

Bliss out on the ice on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays over the summer for only $1 per person from July 6-September 6, 2015!

Loonie Skate hours are:

  • Mondays: 12:30 – 2:30 pm & 6:30 – 8:00 pm
  • Wednesdays: 12:30 – 2:30 pm
  • Fridays: 12:30 – 2:30 pm
  • Sundays: 1:00 – 3:00 pm

For more information, please contact Moody Park Arena at 604-525-5301

Posted in Family Life.

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Drop-in activities for your family’s summer ‘staycation’

Summer vacation is something kids look forward to all year, but after a while the kids start to get restless at home.

Luckily there are lots of drop-in programs and other local fun to enjoy in New Westminster on your summer ‘staycation.’

What to do on your Summer Staycation

Here’s a list of ongoing weekly drop-in activities in New Westminster that you can reference when you’re not sure what to do with your little monkeys this summer:


  • 10:30-11am, July 6-Aug 17 – French Storytime at the Library (Free, All ages): Stories and songs for children in French.
  • 12:30-2:30pm & 6:30-8:30pm – Loonie Skate at Moody Park Arena ($1, all ages): A great way to get really, really cool on a hot day! Info: 604.525.5301
  • 6-7:30pm July 6-29, Aug 10-26 – Family Drop-In Trampoline & Gymnastics ($5 first family member, $2 each additional, age 2+): Info 604-777-5121
  • 6:30-8:30pm – Beach Bocce Mondays at Westminster Pier Park (Free, all ages): Two community bocce sets provided, feel free to bring your own! Fair weather days only.


  • 10-11am – River Critters Baking Class at Pamola Bakery ($5/8, age 5 and under): Decorate cupcakes or cookies and help make amazing treats.
  • 10:30-11:30am, July 7-Aug 18: Summer Fun Days at the Library (Free, Age 5-10 recommended): A special presentation or activity each week. Featured guests: Bubbling Potions Science Show (July 7), Urban Safari Rescue Society (July 21), Burnaby Summer Theatre (August 4).
  • 6:30-7:30pm, July 7-Aug 25: Parent & Tot Gymnastics at the Queen’s Park Arenex ($4 per child, age 1+): Info 604-777-5121


  • 10:30-11:30am, July 8-Aug 19 – Summer Storytime & Craft at the Library (Free, age 2-6): Stories followed by an easy craft for little hands.
  • 11am-12pm, July 8-Aug 19 – Summer Storytime & Craft at the Queensborough Library (Free, age 2-6): Stories followed by an easy craft for little hands.
  • 12:30-2:30pm – Loonie Skate at Moody Park Arena ($1, all ages): A great way to get really, really cool on a hot day! Info: 604.525.5301
  • 2-4pm – Build It! at the Queensborough Library (Free, ages 6-12): Hands-on activities and challenges for older kids.
  • 6-7:30pm July 6-29, Aug 10-26 – Family Drop-In Trampoline & Gymnastics ($5 first family member, $2 each additional, age 2+): Info 604-777-5121


  • 12:30-3pm: Crafty Thursdays Drop-In at Irving House (by donation): Try out old-fashioned games and crafts with Irving House’s costumed guides. Info: 604.527.4640 or
  • 1:30-3:30pm: Build It! at the Library (Free, ages 6-12): Hands-on activities and challenges for older kids.
  • 3-7pm: Royal City Farmers Market in Tipperary Park (free): Live music and children’s entertainment and crafts at every market.


  • 10-11:45am – Music Box Mini Music Drop-In at River Market (Free, 9 months to 5 years): sing and dance to classic children’s songs at Music Box. Two sessions: one starts at 10, the other at 11. Info: 604-553-1176.
  • 10:30-11am, July 10-Aug 21 – Babytime at the Library (Free, 0-23 months): Stories, rhymes and songs for babies
  • 12:30-2:30pm – Loonie Skate at Moody Park Arena ($1, all ages): A great way to get really, really cool on a hot day! Info: 604.525.5301
  • 12:30-3pm – Family Friday at Westminster Pier Park (Free or by donation): Crafty fun on the waterfront every Friday throughout the summer. Info & registration 604-527-4640 or
  • 5-8pm – DJ Summer Series at River Market: Live music with DJ Tom on the River Market patio
  • 7-11pm, July 10-Aug 28 – Summer Movie Series in Queen’s Park Stadium (Free): Outdoor movies on a big screen on fair weather days throughout the summer. Movie starts at dusk (around 9pm). In case of questionable weather call 604-527-4634 Questions? Call 604-515-3775


  • 9-10am, July 11 & 25, Aug 15 & 22 – Parent & Tot Gymnastics at the Queen’s Park Arenex ($4 per child, age 1+): Info 604-777-5121
  • 10:30am-5:30pm – Soap-making Drop-in with Jolene’s Handmade Soap at Tiny Studio in River Market ($12.50, age 6 and up): Fee includes a pound of glycerin soap, and the use of fun scents, molds and colours to make your own creations. Info:



  • Drop-in trampoline and gymnastics at the Arenex ($4.25, 3+ years): Mon-Fri from July 6 – Aug 21, 12-12:55pm or 2-2:55pm; Saturdays on July 11, 25 and Aug 15, 22, 12-12:55 or 2-2:55pm
  • Take the kids for a splash in a spray park or outdoor swimming pool
  • Pet the goats at the Queen’s Park Petting Zoo
  • Visit the Fraser River Discovery Centre
  • Try out a playground that’s new-to-you
  • See a matinee at Landmark Cinemas
  • Go for ice cream
  • Walk to the old Quay playground and explore the new climbable Vancouver Bienniale sculpture installed just a little further down the boardwalk
  • Visit the New Media Gallery and New West Museum & Archives at the Anvil Centre

Have I missed anything? Add a comment with the info below and I will update this list. Happy summer!

Posted in Arts & Culture, Community, Events, Family Life, New Westminster.

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Happening in New West: Friday, July 3 to Thursday, July 9

10-Day Vintage Sale at Brick & Mortar Living

Roll into a good time at the Terminal City Roller Derby Championship on Saturday. Photo by Danny Ngan

Roll into a good time at the Terminal City Roller Derby Championship on Saturday.
Photo by Danny Ngan

In case you need an excuse to visit this local gem–Brick & Mortar Living are having a sale! They are clearing out their large selection of antique wares and all sale items are 50 per cent off. What are you waiting for?

Now until July 12
Brick & Mortar Living
52 Sixth Street    

Terminal City Rollergirls Championship
Get ready for some action-packed fun! Metro Vancouver’s first female roller derby league is hosting their championship game right here in New Westminster. Watch as sassy, strong and athletic women roll around the rink in a fast paced match that will entertain the whole family.

Saturday, July 4
6pm and 8pm
$10/adults, $5/kids, under 5/free
Royal City Curling Club

Open Studio: 100 Braid Street Studios
Take a break from the heat and cool off while browsing the workspace of several local artists. 100 Braid Street Studios is a beautiful place just waiting to be explored. Come out and be inspired. You just might feel the urge to sign up for an art class while you are there.

Saturday, July 4
100 Braid Street Studios

Curious Flea: Joyous July
Lots of curious and curated things to be discovered at this fresh little flea market. Shop over 20 vendors featuring collectibles, upcycled objects, antiques and more.

Sunday, July 5
River Market

Beach Bocce Mondays
Summer nights and Bocce Ball go perfectly together. The fun happens every Monday evening at Pier Park. Don’t have your own set? No problem. Event organizers have you covered. Meet new friends and enjoy a match or two.

Every Monday
Pier Park

Bowling at Lucky Strikes
Slip on some bowling shoes, grab a ball and strike up a good time at the lanes before it’s too late. With Lucky Strikes set to close late next month, why not grab the family and experience the joy of old-school bowling.

Open unil August 22
1205 6th Avenue







Posted in Community.

The 12th Street bread store that’s so cheap – it’s practically free

McGavin's Bread Basket offers steep discounts on Dempster's bread that is close to the sell-by date.


Sandwiches are beautiful but if you’re making lunch for a larger group, the price of bread for all those sandwiches isn’t so fine!

Our family has a secret weapon in the never-ending battle against higher grocery bills: a small bread store on 12th St. in New Westminster, where you can buy discounted loaves for practically nothing.

McGavin’s Breadbasket offers significantly marked-down prices for Dempster’s bread that is close to the sell-by date. They also sell off fresh overstocked loaves if they made more than their grocery store clients needed. The bread typically sells for about $1.50 per loaf, which is about half the price of the regular price at Save-On Foods or Safeway.

If you have the freezer space to stock up, you can get a bulk discount for buying 12 or more loaves at a time. For frequent shoppers, there is a stamp card to collect credit towards free product when the card is full, so sometimes you literally can get some of your bread for free.

McGavin’s Bread Basket doesn’t just sell whole wheat and white. The selection varies, but there are usually some interesting varieties of nutty and seedy breads (such as the Silver Hills Squirrelly Bread), as well as tortillas, English muffins, raisin bread, naan, and pitas. The store also sells cookies, and sometimes Cinnzeo cinnamon buns or other treats.

If you are involved in any community fundraisers it is also worth noting that McGavin’s Bread Basket will donate hot dog or hamburger buns to community groups doing charitable BBQs.

I love an occasional indulgence of artisanal bread from places like A Bread Affair at the Royal City Farmers Market, and I do enjoy baking my own bread occasionally, but for our everyday bread, it’s hard to beat the value we get at McGavin’s Bread Basket. By the time you factor in all the discounts, the bread is so cheap it’s practically free.

You can find McGavin’s Bread Basket at 712A 12th Street in New Westminster.

Posted in Business, Eats and Drinks.

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Free land! New West responds to affordable housing crisis

For many years, New Westminster has been an overlooked haven of affordable urban housing within Metro Vancouver. Lower rents and housing prices are one of the big factors that drew many new residents here in recent years (although most soon found better reasons to stay).

But at the peak of this latest affordability crisis, even New Westminster’s home prices have climbed beyond the reach of many. It’s a problem that weighs heavily on the minds of New West’s progressive-minded city council and new Mayor Jonathan Cote, who launched a task force on housing affordability immediately after his inauguration.

That task force has proposed an audacious plan: if the high cost of land is what is inhibiting development of new affordable housing, what if the City were to remove that barrier and offer the land for free?

And not only that: if the City receives proposals that suit its strategic goals related to affordable housing, New West is ready to waive the cost of permit fees and site servicing as well. With involvement from BC Housing and the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation, a winning proposal could even qualify for project financing or operating assistance.

“This initiative demonstrates our commitment to be both a leader and active partner in addressing housing affordability,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote in a press release. “We are hoping that this process will result in some creative solutions to one of the most important issues facing our region right now.”

The land in question is at 630 Ewen Ave. (a few blocks from the Queensborough Community Centre) and 43 Hastings St. (between Albert Crescent Park and the Pattullo Bridge) in New Westminster. The official request for proposals will be issued shortly, with a deadline for submission by the end of September 2015. If the City receives two proposals of the calibre they are looking for, construction could be underway as soon as summer 2017.

The goal of the offer isn’t just to create affordable housing on the two City-owned sites earmarked for these developments, but also to create an environment that supports experimentation in new forms of development. . In a press release, Director of Development Services Bev Grieve describes this initiative as an “incubator for housing affordability and innovation that can be applied across our region” and says lessons learned from the development of these sites will inform the Official Community Plan review that is currently underway.

In addition to the offer of free land for affordable housing developments, the Mayor’s Housing Affordability Task Force will be making recommendations on other opportunities to meet the housing needs of vulnerable citizens, including persons with disabilities, seniors and young families.

In other words, we can expect that our little city will continue to make big waves on this subject.

Posted in New Westminster, Politics.

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Pier Park to get a little cooler

“Misters” are coming to Westminster Pier Park in July to help park-goers beat the heat. Photo: Eryne Donahue.

The City of New Westminster is getting ready to install three cooling misters at Westminster Pier Park on the Timber Wharf near the volleyball court and hammocks.

While Pier Park is a gem on the waterfront, in the summer, the heat is intense, with little shade to be found.

The new misters will offer a gentle (and very welcome) relief from the heat and add yet another fun feature to draw families to the park (as if two playgrounds, a perfect cycle path, sandy beach, hammocks and loungers weren’t enough).

According to a sign at the park, each of the three poles will offer “two misting nozzles for cooling off, creating a calm and refreshing experience for all park users!”

Construction on the misters starts July 2 and will be complete by July 6.

Posted in Community, Family Life.

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Best poutine in New West the Lower Mainland



New West does poutine well. From the gourmet delights at Spud Shack to the Quebecois-classic style at Anny’s Dairy Bar, you can find poutine done any way you like it.

If authenticity is what you’re after …

Anny’s Dairy Bar is owned by Une Vraie Québécoise. The locally famous maple twist soft-serve ice cream is made with Real Maple Syrup. And the poutine is, by all accounts, Real Poutine. If you are homesick for poutine, Anny’s is where you should go. Find it Uptown on Sixth Street between Seventh St. and Hamilton.

But for poutine like you’ve never had it before … 

Spud Shack is all about great fries and beer, and poutine is a cornerstone of the menu. Like everything else they serve, the classic recipe is a jumping-off point for culinary creativity. The current menu features no less than 10 different poutine flavours, from the ‘baked potato’ with bacon and sour cream, to the ‘night market’ with kimchi and crispy wonton. There are even vegetarian and vegan options, and there are sometimes limited edition creations for special occasions, such as the BBQ duck version served at Chinese New Year. Find Spud Shack’s big taste in a deceptively tiny storefront within the Shops at New West Station (at the top of the Eastbound escalator, en route to Landmark Cinemas).

The Terminal Pub has Truffle Waffle Poutine, which is a fun spin on it. Crisp waffle fries with gravy, cheese curds and truffle oil drizzled on top. Find the Terminal at the bottom of 12th St.

Wild Rice offers a Kung Po Chicken poutine with spicy gravy and polenta fries. Just one of the many tasty treats at River Market.

And if a picnic is your plan … 

Taza Falafel House has surprisingly good poutine, perfect to take home or pack in a picnic to bring to nearby Tipperary Park. Taza’s poutine features loads of real cheese curds and thick potatoey wedges. The gravy and fries are not over-salted either, which is a common mistake. Taza is on Sixth Street at Fourth Ave.

Mmmmm. So many ways to enjoy poutine’s cheesy, salty, greasy deliciousness.

Special thanks to Saskia Muller for the poutine photo above! 

Posted in Eats and Drinks.

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Canada Day in New Westminster

Canada Day fireworks are at the New Westminster Quay on July 1, 2015

Canada Day fireworks are at the New Westminster Quay on July 1, 2015

For Canada Day fun in New Westminster, head to Queens Park and the Quay this Wednesday, July 1.

The festivities begin at 11:30am in Queens Park, with activities and displays from community organizations and live music in the Bandshell until 3:30pm. The spray park and petting zoo will be open as usual, so there’ll be lots for families to do.

Then, after 3pm head down to River Market for face-painting, balloon-twisting and other activities for the kids. For the adults, head out to the boardwalk to catch some live music outside the Paddlewheeler Pub. The shops at River Market will be open late for those who want to pick up dinner on site.

For the literary-minded, there is a Poetry in the Park event from 6-8pm in the Queens Park Bandshell, featuring poetry readings and an open mic. Poetry in the Park is a weekly summer event hosted by the Royal City Literary Arts Society.

The day will finish with fireworks on the Quay at 10pm. Gather on the Quay Boardwalk near River Market for a great view, or watch in style from the Wild Rice patio (reservation-only seating after 8:30pm, so book ahead if that’s your plan!).

How do you plan to spend Canada Day?

Posted in Events.

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Happening in New West: Thursday, June 24-Wednesday, July 1

Starting this week, writer Laura Grady is contributing a weekly selection of events, activities and other fun stuff to do around New Westminster. If you have an event to add to this list, or want to let us know about something that’s coming up, please leave a comment to let us know about it! 

Opening this week

Mermaids Are Real: A photography exhibit presented by the Arts Council, June 23 - July 19.

Mermaids Are Real: A photography exhibit presented by the Arts Council, June 23 – July 19.

Arts Council of New Westminster: Mermaids are Real
Dive into the mystical world of swimming mermaids. Through a series of stunning photographs, visitors will be swept away into a beautiful underwater world. The exhibit includes videos and the children’s book The Pink Mermaid and Other Tails.
June 24–July 19
1pm to 5pm
Queens Park


Artstarts: Musical Adventures Of Marco Polo
Grab the kids and head to the River Market for a celebration of world music. Kids will have the chance to explore music from different nations and traditions and learn about the important role music plays in cultural identity and community.
June 28
11am and 2pm (two sessions)
River Market


Wild Rice Cooking Class
Need some help in the kitchen? Chef Todd has cooked up some classes that are sure to improve the skills of any wannabe food-making expert. With a focus on Chinese food, Chef Todd will teach you the joys of cooking healthy food from scratch. $55
June 30
Wild Rice
810 Quayside Drive


Canada Day
No need to leave New Westminster to find fun-filled events to celebrate Canada Day. Lots of activities, music, food and more at Queen’s Park from 11:30am–3:30pm. Pier Park is hosting a Multicultural Day from 3pm–10pm. Enjoy a mosaic of food, songs, dance and performers. Finish the day of with a bang: Fireworks at the Westminster Quay begin at dusk.


Food Truck at Steel & Oak
Ease yourself into the weekend with a Thursday night trip to New West’s very own local brewery. Enjoy a cold one, grab some tasty grub and make the most of these warm summer nights.
Every Thursday
6pm to close
1319 Third Avenue


Have a great week everyone!

Posted in Community, Events.

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Time to let go of ‘The Royal City’ name

Queen Victoria named our city, but is that point of trivia really the one thing we want to be known for?

Queen Victoria named our city, but is that point of trivia really the one thing we want to be known for?

“The Royal City” has long been used to describe New Westminster. While I love the dusty romance and nod to history of “The Royal City” as a nickname, the name-dropping title smacks too much of insecurity. New Westminster’s ‘royal’ connection is a tenuous one, not something I think should be the cornerstone of our identity as a city.

The Royal City moniker doesn’t refer to any kind of special affection for our town by the Royal Family. More than 150 years ago, Queen Victoria was asked to rename Queensborough (as our little colony on the river was called then) and, having never been here, she imaginatively chose to name us after a part of London: Westminster.

Ever since, we have claimed the right to call ourselves The Royal City, after a Queen’s whim.

To me, ‘The Royal City’ suggests:

  • Britishness, despite our increasingly diverse population
  • Snobbery, in a town that prides itself on friendliness and acceptance
  • Support for the monarchy, which despite the excitement over Princess Kate’s adorable babies, is dwindling across the country – New Westminster included

We are all aware, I’m sure, that the Royal Family doesn’t care a whit for New Westminster. Meanwhile, despite waning support for the monarchy in Canada, we continue to celebrate our city’s minor royal connection in the names of dozens of businesses and organizations and the ever-present crowns that festoon logos and banners throughout the city.

I’m not saying the Royal City Record, Royal City Farmers Market, Royal City Jewellers and many other ‘Royal City’ organizations around town need to start changing their names. But I am saying that when we are looking to add new life to our city through signage, branding, lighting and street decor, we should look beyond the crown and present a fresh vision of what New Westminster is now and will become.

Our neighbouring cities’ taglines, which, while not perfect, at least present a vision of the kind of city they aim to be. For example, Surrey claims ‘The Future Lives Here,’ and over in Port Moody, they congratulate themselves on being the ‘City of the Arts.’ When both of these taglines were first announced I dismissed them as wishful thinking, but over time Surrey has begun to transform from a low-rent mess into a suburban powerhouse, and Port Moody has invested in its arts and culture initiatives and now supports far more events than you might expect for its size. They are slowly working to transform themselves into the kinds of cities they hoped to be.

‘New’ Westminster’s name was chosen with little apparent thought or care by a woman who happened to be born Queen. This borrowed lustre is no longer relevant or meaningful. New West has its own identity, and while we still retain a hearty contingent of monarchists, it is time to present our city in a way that looks forward to the future, not some musty memory.

Posted in New Westminster.

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Board games, pinball and other old-school fun

One of River Market's three arcade machines is appropriately named "Old School Games."

One of River Market’s three arcade machines is appropriately named “Old School Games.”

If you’re into board games, arcade machines and other old-school fun, you might want to head over to Board Game Warriors, the Hide Out Cafe, Press Start or River Market in New West.

Board Game Warriors, a specialty store in downtown New West, hosts board game nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-10pm and Saturday from 12-7pm.

They also sponsor a games night every second Friday from 6pm-midnight at the Hide Out Cafe on Carnarvon (the next one is June 26) and River Market on Sundays from 11am-6pm. While the board game nights aren’t marketed for kids, families are welcome to join in the fun.

The Hide Out Cafe and River Market also both have a secret stash of board games available anytime to play. I’ve enjoyed an occasional game of Battleship at the Hide Out with my kids, but I didn’t know River Market offered board games until I saw it on Twitter (ask at the office if you want to play).

If you drop in for gaming at River Market, you can enjoy more retro fun at the retro photo booth upstairs ($2 per photo strip) and several newly installed arcade games downstairs next to Wild Rice Restaurant.

If arcade games are your thing, you can find more at Press Start on 12th Street, which also offers sweet deals and trade-ins on used video games.


Posted in Community.

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Who Brews? You Brews! Homebrewing takes off in New West

Hops are among the homebrew supplies found at Barley's Homebrewing Supplies on East Columbia St. Photo: Curtis Van Marck.

Hops are among the homebrew supplies found at Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies on East Columbia St. Photo: Curtis Van Marck.

Warning: once you start homebrewing, your house may never look the same again. You’ll have dozens of beer bottles, carboys, large pails, tubes, kettles, a propane burner, a mash paddle, thermometers, a hydrometer, and so much more. You’ll start to speak a different language: wort, trub, mash, decoction, vorlauf, sparg. And you’ll become part of a welcoming community that bands together in the pursuit of creating a unique beer you can call your own.

Here in New Westminster, that burgeoning community is called Brew Westminster. The Google group of over 100 people is open for anyone to join. It’s a place to talk about all things beer, and it’s a great place to ask questions if you want to get started homebrewing. It’s an addictive and growing hobby taking over the basements, kitchens, yards and garages around town. Much like home cooking, you get to pick the ingredients, play with the taste, there are no preservatives, and it’s fun.

Carboys and other specialty equipment are required to brew beer. Photo: Shaye Hoobanoff.

Carboys and other specialty equipment are required to brew beer. Photo: Shaye Hoobanoff.

Ross Arbo is one of the originators of the group. He and a few friends decided to give homebrewing a try a few years ago. They split the cost of the equipment and were impressed with their results. He thinks the best way to start making your own beer is to jump in feet first, just “grab a friend and decipher it together.” Arbo also suggests reaching out to people in the Brew West Google group to find out who’s doing a brew and offer to help while watching the process.

The group meets up semi-regularly and creates a beer together. Recently there’s talk about trying to create a Maple Bacon Ale, a German Märzen beer, or a French Saison. Does that ‘wit’ your appetite to join them? In the past they’ve also done a bulk group buy of various hop rhizomes.

The New Westminster brewing community has a key partner: Curtis Van Marck, owner of Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies on Columbia Street. He participates regularly in the forum and often hosts meetings at his store. Van Marck likes the group’s informality and creativity. “Sometimes we’ll pick a recipe and make it with the same ingredients but each of us will try a different yeast and compare the results.”

Van Marck says the interest in homebrewing has grown considerably since he opened his supply store in early 2013. “Sales are up 20% over last year. I see many customers coming in every week.” Van Marck believes that the explosion of microbreweries and craft beer has propelled the homebrewing hobby because “people get to know the importance of ingredients and once they get a better understanding of the process they realize they can do it at home.”

Go on, give it a try! The options and ingredients are endless – choose a white, brown, red, black IPA hop for example. Who knows, maybe you’ll be so impressed with your creation that you’ll fantasize about dropping your day job and opening your own microbrewery.

Posted in Community, Eats and Drinks.

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Farmer’s Market Feast: Garlic scapes & new potatoes

Going to the Farmer’s Market this early in the season can feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day, each week bringing you new lettuce and herbs.  While July and August bring with it an abundance of variety, it takes a while for the produce to ramp up (no onion pun intend). But there are goodies laced throughout. Certainly enough to inspire even the most novice cook to prepare a lovely, nourishing, Farmer’s Market Feast.

Garlic Scape

Garlic scapes

In fact, there are two little gems that are in their prime right now – the garlic scape and the new potato. The former is a little weird looking. Tough to the touch, almost like a bean with bulbous connections and pointy heads, it’s only in recent years that these beautifully scented stems, a by-product of growing garlic, have become the Foodies new BFF. I’m not going to lie… the scapes I’m using tonight? They were a gift from a dear friend who has a massive community garden and more scape than she can handle (Thank you, Heather). But I love them so much that I’m actually going to use the ones I picked up today in some pickles. Need more inspiration? Check this out.

Then there is the new potato. If you haven’t yet tried them out then let me tell you… Don’t. Those of us that have discovered this buttery, slightly waxy, easily crisped up early-season wonder really don’t want to share with you (but we will!). Nearly every produce stall is filled with them, though strolling the market, it feels like you can tell which ones were actually pulled from the ground recently and which ones might have been a quick pick up from Save-On on the way to the market.

So today, upon arriving at the market, tasked with inspiring you all to make something wonderful for dinner, I found myself holding my two favourite gems… and… nothing else. I scanned the market and my eyes landed on the woman I lovingly refer to as “The Beef Lady.” I know, Foodie-Fashion-Faux-Pas of the last few years, red meat isn’t on everyone’s diet these days. But it is on mine, and my Dedicated Food Eater (husband) hasn’t had a T-Bone in recent memory. So, I pick up the steak, a head of romaine, some Little Qualicum Blue, and a loaf of ciabatta. Happy with my spoils, I am on my way home, truly giddy at the prospect of making dinner.

Farmers Market Goodies

Tara’s goodies from this week’s Farmer’s Market

Here’s the menu:

  • Pan seared T-bone, with shiitake mushrooms (not from the market) and LQ blue cheese
  • Roasted baby new potatoes, simply done in salt and pepper
  • Caesar Salad, sans croutons
  • Garlic Scape Toast

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to do your steak (I like Blumenthall’s method), or publish a full tutorial on how to roast potatoes (I do them in the oven at 450 on roast for just under an hour, quartered if they are big, with olive oil, salt and pepper), and everyone has their thoughts on Caesar Salad (I’m partial to something like this). But what I will share with you, my New West neighbours, is my Garlic Scape Pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto

  • 1 bunch of garlic scape (or a handful if there happens to  be a basket you’re grabbing from)
  • Red Chili Flake
  • 1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Lukewarm Water (if required)
  • Salt & Pepper


Garlic Scape Toast

Garlic Scape Toast

In a food processor or a magic bullet with the ice-shaving blade (my favourite because who wants to clean an entire food processor?), put in all the ingredients except the oil and water. Puree, adding oil slowly to the mix. If using a bullet (because they are surprisingly awesome), start with about 2 tablespoons of oil in the mix. Puree until chunky but not smooth. You want some texture. Add water to loosen the mix if required (depends on the scapes).

Tonight, I’m spreading it on toast, but I’ve used it on sandwiches, in salsas, pastas, and even as a soup base added to a mirepoix. The scape has a bit of an earthy flavor like nothing else. Get it, make it, freeze it after a few days in an ice cube tray and enjoy year round.

The Vendors:

Shout outs to “The Beef Lady” at Outwest Ranches, Little Qualicum Cheese, Bose Family Farms, Zaklan Farms and of course, A Bread Affair, which provided the canvas for our Garlic Scape Toast.

Posted in Eats and Drinks.

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On June 18, get a sneak peek at the new ‘Front Street Mews’

One of the two options for Front Street Mews to be presented for feedback at a June 18 public open house.

The sun will soon shine again on Antique Alley.

When half of the the great grey hulking parkade is torn down to daylight Front Street, the strip between Begbie St. and Sixth St. will be transformed into Front Street Mews, a traffic-calmed, pedestrian-friendly shopping street featuring wider sidewalks, street trees and street furniture.

On Thursday, June 18 from 5-7pm, the City of New Westminster is hosting a public open house in the Anvil Centre ballroom to share their vision for the new and improved Front Street. Check it out if you want a sneak peek at the transformation planned for Front St. or to share your opinion on the proposed design recommendations.

Posted in Community.

Homelearning in New Westminster

At the homeschool resource centre, kids benefit from classroom resources and special group activities. Photo: Colleen Baird.

At the homeschool resource centre, kids benefit from classroom resources and special group activities. Photo: Colleen Baird.

The decision to homeschool is a difficult one. For me, it was like a mental tennis game, I volleyed back and forth between the conviction that it was the right thing to do and the certainty that I would ruin my child’s life if I did it.

I tortured myself for weeks before settling into a more reasonable frame of mind. I decided that we would try homeschooling for kindergarten then reassess. After all, school enrollment isn’t required until a child is six. At the tender age of four, I had time to undo any awfulness my homeschooling might inflict on my child.

There were many reasons behind our choice. My son has terrible anxiety, and he was ill far more often than your average child. I had also started educating myself about HOW children learn. And, as we all know, our province’s school system is underfunded and falling apart. In the end, full time school just wasn’t right for him and it wasn’t right for our family.

Colleen's boys play logic games as part of their educational activities. Photo: Colleen Baird.

Colleen’s boys play logic games as part of their educational activities. Photo: Colleen Baird.

Once you make the big decision to homelearn, you are then faced with many, many more choices. In the province of B.C., all children are required to be enrolled in either a brick-and-mortar school, as a Distance Learner (DL) or registered as a Section 12 Homeschooler. It’s important to educate yourself about your legal rights as a homelearner. The BC Homelearners Association is a great resource for this.

As a Section 12 Homeschooler, you are free from government interference. You can choose your curriculum, and you do not have to follow the province’s Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs). You do not even have to do any reporting or testing. You are truly free to approach education in the way you see fit for your family.

I can now see a great benefit to this. Although I do not have experience being a Sec 12 family, I really only see two drawbacks; you do not get any funding from the government to supplement educational costs (although your district still draws $275) and you have to do all of the leg-work and carry the expenses required to get your child into groups and programs. Freedom from government interference trumps those drawbacks for many people, however, and I can certainly see why.

Spending more time in nature is another perk of homeschooling. Photo: Colleen Baird.

Spending more time in nature is another perk of homeschooling. Photo: Colleen Baird.

We decided to enroll as Distance Learners with the New Westminster Homelearners’ Program (NWHLP) – soon to be known as Homelearners at Hume. We chose this route because I felt that I needed the support and guidance of a teacher and wanted the safety of a built-in community.

There are many DL programs available to homelearning families, and you are free to choose any program that fits your needs. You are not restricted to your local district; you can register with any DL in the province.

A great benefit of being in a DL is that your child draws funding from the province and is given an allotment to use for educational materials and field trips. Our $600 (funding was cut from $1000 last year) has helped our single-income family purchase material, but we always have additional out-of-pocket expenses.

An additional (but maybe theoretical) benefit to a DL is that your child will have access to the supports provided by the district such as special education assistants and school counsellors. Should you need these supports, my advice to you is to research every DL, pick those that seem to provide what your child needs and reach out to parents to find out what the actual experience is like.

Just because your child needs and deserves something from the district, doesn’t mean that he or she will receive it. Here at New West Homelearners, we’ve suffered through the loss of our Child & Youth Care Worker. It’s an unfortunate situation that has had a negative impact on some of our families. The lack of an education assistant or Youth Care Worker is the only complaint I have about our New West Homelearners program, which does not reflect on the school, but rather on our underfunded system.

When my son started kindergarten, I was perhaps as anxious and lost as he was. I’m a shy person and take some time to become comfortable in new situations, so spending time in a new place, with new people was very intimidating. I can only imagine how some of our children feel at the beginning of a new school year!

The staff at NWHLP is amazing at making each family feel welcome. I got to know each teacher and administrator quickly because they are so gifted at making families feel included at the learning center. The teachers welcomed me into the classroom when my son needed me, they allowed my youngest to participate in some activities (when he was cooperating) and included him in the yearbook, which has helped foster a relationship that will make his transition to Kindergarten a happy experience.

The layout and atmosphere of the school encourages parents and siblings to come and go as they need, getting some work done while their child is in class, perusing the library for material to use at home or just having a coffee and chat in the kitchen. I’ve made some wonderful friends there, as have my children.

I feel like we’ve had a close to ideal situation, and stumbled into that village that we all crave. I have the unique and enviable position of spending eight hours a week with my son’s friends. I get to know their likes and dislikes, their quirks and strengths, their temperaments and their needs in a way that I wouldn’t in a more conventional school setting.

NWHLP provides my son with a safe, inclusive social environment and time with older children who model very thoughtful, accepting ways. The students all get some academic time with the teachers, which varies according to age and abilities. This year, Kieran had a Words & Numbers class that he enjoyed, a Destination Imagination class that kept him engaged and encouraged him to problem solve with small groups, a PE class and Centres.

In addition to the regular classes offered, the learning center brings in mentors from outside of the school to provide the kids with some stellar arts programs. In grade one Kieran was lucky enough to experience a percussion class with Robyn Lane who was also homeschooled as a child and now travels with his bands, presents workshops through Art Starts and is also an instructor at The Sarah McLachlan School of Music. He thoroughly enjoyed drama class with a woman I truly admire, Stefanie Swinnard, owner of The Stage New West. I credit this class with much of Kieran’s success breaking out of his comfort zone this year. He was also fortunate enough to take a wonderful expressive art class with art therapist Kim Chiem. He’s experienced a range of programs that I couldn’t offer him on my own, time developing trusting relationships with other adults and experience with peers who encourage individuality.

There have been highs and lows during the last two years, many moments of fear and some of affirmation. I’ve experienced the inevitable self-doubt and the occasional moment of certainty, but something that I have felt since the beginning is gratitude.

I’m grateful that I can offer my children the time and space to grow, the freedom to really explore their loves and the flexibility to change our schedule if we feel inspired by something. I am grateful that their time outdoors is not limited and that we spend plenty of time in nature, exploring, gaining appreciation for our land and sparking the desire to care for it. Most of all I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with them, the new ways I come to understand them as they learn and grow and the many things I’ve learned about myself along the way.

Posted in Family Life.

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On June 20, two neighbourhood garage sales in New West

Yard Sale

June 20 is a big day for yard sales in New West. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Saturday, June 20, 2015 will be a great day to cruise for bargains in New Westminster, as both the West End and Glenbrooke North are having their own neighbourhood-wide garage sales.

Neighbourhood garage sales are popular in New West. The oldest is the annual Queens Park Garage Sale in May, sponsored by realtor Dave Vallee, which has run for 20 years. The Quayside Festival and Sale in August, organized by the Quayside Community Board, is entering its ninth year, and it is probably the biggest, drawing up to 10,000 people. Massey-Victory Heights also has an annual sale in early May, organized by the residents association and sponsored by realtor Derrick Thornhill.

The June 20 Glenbrooke North garage sale is hosted by the area resident’s association. The 16th annual sale will be 9am-3pm, rain or shine, and will incorporate a fundraiser for New West’s Monarch Place, a shelter for women and children fleeing violence. Here is a map of participating homes:

The West End doesn’t have an annual garage sale tradition, but this year realtor Matt Brabbin is sponsoring one this year, which will also be 9am-3pm on June 20. Here’s the map of participating homes:

Happy bargain-hunting!

Posted in Community.

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‘800 thumbs up’ for Taza Falafel House


Taza Falafel House may not look like much, but the food is fab. Photo: @daveinnewwest (via Twitter)

 Taza Falafel House doesn’t look remarkable from the outside, and those who don’t know Middle Eastern food might never think to approach it. But once you’re in, you’re IN. I gave it 800 thumbs up for the items on the menu I had (plus the extras I ended up ordering for dinner that night because I couldn’t get enough).

I ordered three enormous meals for $18 that were just as good cold and reheated as they were fresh from the grill. We had a falafel and tzatziki pita and a chicken wrap. They also accommodated a request for a falafel burger on a grilled bun, which turned out to be what could be the best sandwich I’ve had in years.

Normally I avoid onions at all costs, but on these meals, the red onions mixed with the home made tzatziki, paired with the home made falafel (obviously done lightly in a high quality oil) was to die for. The food also passed the husband test, despite being a “meat-and-potatoes-only-what’s-that-green-stuff-on-my-plate” guy.

Google ranks the restaurant at a 4.7 stars out of 5, which I would say is accurate. It only loses the .3 from the slightly less-than-glittery décor. You’ll barely notice it once you walk in and experience the smell of deliciousness!

You can find Taza Falafel House at 344 Sixth Street, New Westminster, beside 7-11.

Click to add a blog post for Taza Falafel House on Zomato

Posted in Eats and Drinks.

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Where to shop for the best prices on fruit & vegetables in New West

Joanne Ho from Nature Village Farms scoops up some blueberries for a customer at the Royal City Farmers Market. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Joanne Ho from Nature Village Farms scoops up some blueberries for a customer at the Royal City Farmers Market. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

We are a fruit- and veggie-loving family, but when we load up on produce, I try not to do it at the big box grocery stores around here. The average price of produce is just too high at Safeway, Save-On, Buy Low and the like. I read the flyers for the loss leaders and in-season specials, but when I really need to stock up on veg I try to go to one of the local specialty produce stores for better selection, price and quality.

Langley Farm Market, on Kingsway just past 10th, is probably my favourite produce place to visit. The quality is always really good, and their prices are usually very competitive. They also carry meat, some dairy and bakery items, and a few shelves of pantry items – comes in handy when you need to pick up milk along with salad fixings. Downsides: grocery carts need loonies, not the usual quarters, aisles are cramped, and carts are stored in a spot that is exposed to the elements, so if it rains the cart is too soaked for my toddler to ride in.

Kin’s Farm Market in Royal City Centre is another good option. Some items can be more expensive than Langley Farm, but it can be convenient to stop in while uptown. Kin’s has only baskets (no carts), charges for bags, and doesn’t sell milk or most other non-produce staples that I buy.

Donald’s Market in River Market is usually less expensive than Save-On and the like. When food is close to the end of its sell-by date they often cut the price significantly. This means you have to check dates on any good deals, but if you are able to preserve it for later or eat it right away, you can get some great discounts. Donald’s isn’t really set up well for a big family grocery shop (small carts, small aisles, parking far away) but I like going there when I need more than just produce but I’m not in need of a big stock-up shop yet.

Joy Farm Market on 8th Ave at 10th St (near Moody Park) has some of the cheapest prices in town, but you have to really scrutinize the goods before you buy. Source of some of the woodiest peaches, sourest mangoes and mushiest apples I’ve been unfortunate enough to buy. BUT, as long as you are careful you can get some really fantastic deals on price.

Denny’s Farm Market, on 6th Ave across from Save-On also has good prices and sometimes variable quality. I found the layout of the store awkward when shopping with a stroller, and when I have the car, parking isn’t the greatest. I don’t shop at Denny’s often, but it is a good option if you are in the area and without small children.

Freshico in the complex next to Safeway at McBride and 8th Ave is one I haven’t tried yet, but I have heard a number of people say it’s a good spot for fresh food.

Finally, The Royal City Farmers Market deserves a mention. It is definitely not the cheapest option for some foods, and the seasonal variability means you can’t necessarily count on finding the food you hoped at the price you wanted to pay. But during the sweet spot of the season when the harvest is abundant and the sun is shining, it’s a pretty excellent place to be. Sometimes bulk buying specials are available for canners if you approach the farmer with a proposal to buy a very large quantity of produce in one go, and depending how your family eats, a community supported agriculture (CSA) bin can be a more affordable way to eat local.

Did I miss any? Where is your favourite spot to buy produce?

Posted in Eats and Drinks, Family Life.

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New West kids deserve fair lunch policy for all

Lunch standards vary significantly from school to school in New West, as shown in this page from the Superintendent's report on the subject.

Lunch standards vary significantly from school to school in New West, as shown in this page from the Superintendent’s report on the subject.

The children in my daughter’s kindergarten class, like most in the district, are given 15 minutes to eat their lunches before they are sent outside to play. But it’s not really 15 minutes to eat.

That 15 minutes includes two dozen children lining up and washing hands at a single sink in the class. It includes the time to file into the cloakroom to fetch their lunch kits. It also includes the time to clean up their desks and put their lunch kits away. Talking and socializing are necessarily forbidden.

Two-term school trustee Maryann Mortensen has been calling attention to the problems with this approach for more than four years, without much support from the school board. The board will be discussing the lunch question again at the next board meeting on June 16, and I will be profoundly disappointed and frustrated if trustees decide to continue stonewalling Mortensen in her quest to provide New Westminster’s children with a reasonable amount of time to eat.

According to Superintendent John Gaiptman, adding a few more minutes for lunch will not affect the amount of time kids have in class, or cost more money. It will be a minor inconvenience for the adults to adjust, but those few minutes will allow kids a few more bites – maybe even enough to finish what’s in their lunchbox before heading outside to play.

When I first heard about the lunch complaint, I didn’t take it that seriously. I also had 15 minutes to eat as a child, and I turned out fine. But what I didn’t realize is that new rules about hand-washing mean that it isn’t 15 minutes for eating – it can be a lot less. When my daughter is one of the first in line to wash hands, she manages to wolf down most of the lunch I pack, but when she is the last person to wash hands she frequently runs out of time. Her next opportunity to eat is after school, when we arrive home almost three hours later. Too often she comes home starving and cranky, and I have to wonder how well she was able to pay attention in class after eating so little.

My son is a few grades ahead, and he has learned to eat alarmingly quickly. Before he entered kindergarten, our snack times always included a variety of fruits and vegetables, so I couldn’t understand why the carrots and cucumbers I sent always came back uneaten. After a while, I came to realize it was because they simply took too much time to chew.

When I have talked about this with the teachers at school, they have said that they accommodate children who need more time by allowing them to finish their lunches in the Learning Centre instead of going out to play. There are two problems with this. The first is that most children are also starved of free play time in school, and will not willingly give it up. The second is that the Learning Centre is also where children are often sent for discipline when they are being disruptive in class. It is a place many kids associate with punishment.

In New Westminster, the approach to lunch varies not only from school to school, but also from teacher to teacher, and even day by day. I hear from friends in Montessori at McBride Elementary that some teachers there allow children to snack on food from their lunch kits in class as long as it is not interfering with teaching time (such as when a child is done their work early, or during rest/free play times). I have heard other parents say their children’s teachers have come up with strategies to provide more time, such as starting hand-washing before the bell, or allowing some children to go wash hands in the bathroom if they are lucky enough to have a classroom close by.

While I applaud these teachers for coming up with ways to provide more time to eat, the fact that they have to do so just illustrates the point that children are simply not given enough time to eat. As adults, we would not stand to have so little time, and I think it is appalling that the district has been unwilling to ensure that children have adequate time to eat a healthy meal.

Meals ought to be more than pit stops to refuel as fast as possible. Mealtimes are a welcome respite from the busyness of the day, and when we are lucky enough to share a meal with others, it should be a social occasion.

But that’s not what our kids are learning in school. Instead, the lunch monitors (children themselves) punish kids for talking to each other. In my son’s class, the lunch monitors take away play time for kids caught talking, by keeping them inside for a few minutes after everyone else has left, and have even “punished” the class for socializing by making them do math equations (there’s a whole other rant about children seeing math as punishment, but I will leave that for another day).

Hungry children have more trouble paying attention, are more likely to act out and are simply less able to learn. I am troubled that we are encouraging children to eat so quickly (a very unhealthy habit) and to put so little value on mealtimes. I hope for our kids’ sake that our trustees will give this question the attention that it deserves, and create standards that ensure every child in the district has enough time to eat.

Posted in Family Life, Politics.

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Hugo Franca’s Placemaker on the Esplanade

My daughter and kitty, Sparrow, both appreciate the views they have from this elevated position.

My daughter and kitty, Sparrow, both appreciate the views they have from this elevated position.

If you’ve ever heard the term “place-making”, you’ll recognize that this is a process that is in full swing in New Westminster. The careful redesigning of public space in our little city offers opportunities to actively participate in a dynamic growing culture and history, simply by getting out and walking the streets and riverfront.

An example of this redesign is the commitment New Westminster has made to public art in the recent past with the introduction of a Public Art Policy and the PAAC (Public Art Advisory Committee) which I am happy to sit on this year. It appears that the city’s position on making Public Art an objective really recognizes the way it reinvigorates and humanizes our public places.

Our participation in the 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale is a recent and exciting example of this objective. Despite its many controversies, the value of this exhibition has now begun to manifest itself with the temporary installation of Hugo Franca’s Public Furniture/Urban Trees, a large chair fashioned from a tree root scavenged from the leftovers of some coastal deforestation. This is the first and most tame of three expected sculptural installations in the Open Borders/Crossroads Vancouver exhibition, which was unveiled along the Esplanade at the end of May. It is now populated by loungers, climbing children, and people enjoying the character it brings to this private end of the walkway.

Artworks such as this are accessible to most people: it can be touched and used in most ways that may come to mind, by most individuals. On a walk with my 20-month-old daughter and cat (yes, I walk my cat!), I found two elderly visitors practicing tai chi alongside the sculpture as a young boy and his father explored its surface.

Franca’s sculpture is in a familiar space and is recognizable in its material and form; it is not intimidating. From behind, we see it close to its original form, and it lets us see beyond the paved Esplanade to the natural shore of the Fraser. Walking around to the front, the bench invites us to sit and observe the rushing water.

In one way or another, artworks such as this sensitize us to our space and help us view the familiar with fresh eyes. They also make it acceptable to spend time lingering in a public place where we can really enjoy its value.

In the case of Franca’s waterfront installation, the sculptural form of the chair and its relationship to the log booms that are typically viewed floating on the river might give us an opportunity to consider how we as a community and as individuals participate in a historic and ongoing intensive use of our local resources.

However you view it or use it, this simple bench created from a root is one step in a new move toward making contemporary public art a defining feature in New Westminster. Have you visited it yet?

Posted in Arts & Culture, New Westminster.

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Lord Kelvin PAC calls for #lessgraymoregreen on school grounds

The schoolyard at Lord Kelvin Community School is gray. Really gray. The teachers are sick of it, the kids are sick of it, and the PAC wants to do something about it. It’s time for #lessgraymoregreen.

New West’s inner city schoolyard needs a facelift. Our students deserve more green during the 30+ hours they spend at school each week. They show up at school and they’re greeted with this:


The gravel field at Lord Kelvin school. Photo: Natalie Lawy.

The gravel field at Lord Kelvin school. Photo: Roger Hur

It’s not good enough.

The Kelvin School Greening Project is a two-year plan set to begin in September 2015. Our goals for this project are:

  • To increase the students’ contact with nature, to promote physical and mental well-being.
  • To increase the types of play available to the children by providing new elements to jump on, climb over, hide behind, and who knows what else!
  • To create new spaces for socializing.
  • To create an outdoor learning space our teachers can use with their classes.
  • To create new spaces that neighbourhood kids can use outside school hours.
Trees at Lord Kelvin

Kids at Lord Kelvin currently congregate in tiny shade patches under a few slim young trees. The PAC wants to create a little enclave of greenery under each tree with quick-growing shrubs and nestle some simple seating into the plants. Photo: Roger Hur

Together, the school community has come up with a plan to create natural spaces. Here’s what we plan to do:

  • Create a simple, open-air Gathering Space with a green wall to provide shade, privacy from the street, and cleaner air. The Gathering Space will do double duty as an outdoor classroom and be full of natural elements like tree stump seats and native plants.
  • Creating Shady Seating next to our sports field. Kids currently congregate in tiny shade patches under a few slim young trees. We want to create a little enclave of greenery under each tree with quick-growing shrubs and nestle some simple seating into the plants.
  • Reclaim the concrete Inner Courtyard. This space is heavily used by our youngest students and it could stand to be a little … softer. We want to add some nice big planters with trees and shrubs, cute wooden benches, and a colourful mural.
Lord Kelvin Elementary inner courtyard

Lord Kelvin Community School’s Inner Courtyard. The PAC wants to add some nice big planters with trees and shrubs, cute wooden benches, and a colourful mural. Photo: Roger Hur

The biggest hurdle we face at this point is funding. And happily, you can help! You can shop our Mabel’s Labels fundraiser to order labels for your kids’ clothes, camp gear, lunch containers and school supplies. (We picked them because we like them ourselves, and they really work!) They ship straight to your door. If you access the site through our link, our PAC will receive 20% of your purchase. Easy peasy!

You can also watch for our bulb sale in the fall. The more bulbs we sell, the more bulbs we’ll plant! And if you’re dividing low maintenance plants like ferns this fall, please let us know. You can reach the PAC through the Chairperson, Natalie Lawy.

Posted in Community, Family Life.

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Raising a family in downtown New West

Like many other families we’ve met since moving to New Westminster in fall 2013, my husband and I moved to New Westminster to find an “affordable” home for our family. We wanted a place that was walkable, near rapid transit and close to amenities. Living in a condo in downtown New Westminster fit the bill. Bonus: New West also has history and character. There are many things to like about raising a family in downtown New West – this is my perspective as a parent with a very young daughter (16 months).

Shops at New West

The enclosed kids play area directly underneath the skytrain tracks may not seem like much, but it really is a godsend on a rainy day. There’s plenty of nearby options for food and coffee, it’s covered from the rain, and you can often find other parents and kids there. It’s a nice place to let your kid burn off some energy before or after errands.

Shops at New West play area

The Stage New Westminster

Since our daughter was about 6 months old, we’ve enrolled her in the Music & Movement classes located at their studio on Carnarvon St. Our daughter loves the classes, and we like it for the sense of community it gives us. We plan on continuing to enroll her in classes as she grows. We’ve met friends here that we now meet regularly at Pier Park for playdates.

(photo credit: Dave Hadgkiss)

(Photo: Dave Hadgkiss)

The Quay, River Market & Pier Park

For us, these make New West livable, and a place we’ll seriously try to stay. We pretty much go here everyday with our daughter. What’s not to like? There’s plenty of space for her to learn to bike/walk without cars interfering, lots of dogs for her to check out, people to see, tugboats to inspect, plants to play with, swings, and playgrounds. It’s like a child’s paradise! Perhaps most importantly, River Market has fully equipped washrooms and places to buy food.

2015-03-22 16.16.57

Friendship Garden

I think this is an under-utilized gem. In the summer, the Farmer’s Market is located here every Thursday, but year-round, this is a great place for little people to explore. We take our daughter here as a regular outing. It’s relatively quiet, there’s lots of room to wander, ducks to see, and bridges to cross. The water features are always soothing.

Anna in Friendship Garden

(Photo: Dave Hadgkiss)

Walkable shops

Living downtown means you’re within walking distance to pretty much everything you need (not just bridal shops!): there’s Shoppers Drug Market, Safeway, Donald’s Market, 3 different dollar stores, a movie theatre for the elusive date night (though Landmark also has family friendly movie matinees), plenty of restaurants, Schnoo and Pachooch for toys, Ribbons & Threads for baby stuff, and Brick & Mortar even has a section of adorable kids stuff.

Easy access to transit

One of the major benefits of living downtown is the easy access to transit. If we feel like mixing up the routine, we hop on the skytrain regularly to check out other regional parks, go to Metrotown, Science World, downtown Vancouver, or the Aquarium, to name a few destinations.


Overall we find downtown New West a very friendly place. We’ve made at least two “parent friends” by just meeting them at the playground and on the skytrain elevator. It’s so geographically constrained that you tend to see the same people regularly, fostering a sense a community and belonging. I’ve honestly been surprised at how much this has contributed to our quality of life.

We were thrilled to hear about the new requirements for condo developments to set aside a percentage of units for 2 & 3 bedrooms. There is so much potential for downtown New West to be an even more vibrant place to raise a family.  There are; however, a few areas for improvement that I know have been noted elsewhere but bear repeating: traffic, affordability and daycare.  The constant traffic noise really wears on us. If we have the windows open we need to pause the TV when a bus or truck goes up 6th St. Second, if we ever decide we want a yard, it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to stay in New West due to the cost of single family homes. Those are the only 2 issues that would make us consider moving. Lastly, there are very few daycares within walking distance, especially in the infant category. We’ve managed to find a space with significant effort and time, but we’ll have to drive to Sapperton.

Want to get involved? The Downtown New West Residents Association has monthly meetings.

What great family-friendly activities or amenities have I missed? Let us know in the comments

Posted in Community.

Give Peas a Chance: Looking for Vegetarian Options in Downtown New West

I love downtown New West. I’ve been working and playing here for more than two years, and even in that short time I have seen it become an increasingly attractive, modern, and hip area that is luring droves of young people and families to its friendly streets. Yet even with the growing number of new shops, restaurants, and amenities popping up around downtown, I still face the daily struggle of finding a decent vegetarian meal when lunch or dinner time rolls around. Considering how well-stocked the area is with cafes, restaurants, markets, and food trucks, this is a surprising (and frustrating) problem.

I’ve been fully vegetarian for years, and these days it’s dead easy to shop and eat out in most places. Grocery stores are well-stocked with meat and dairy alternatives, and most restaurants worth their salt offer at least a few intentionally vegetarian items. What do I mean by “intentionally vegetarian”? This refers to options that were crafted to be vegetarian from conception, not a meat-based meal with the animal products removed upon request (which can often be of inferior quality). With vegetarianism, veganism, dairy-free, and other alternative diets at an all-time high, there is simply no excuse for a modern restaurant not to have a few solid veggie entrées.

That’s why I’m consistently surprised and disappointed by how few great vegetarian and vegan options there are in downtown New West. At the River Market on New West Quay, most of the restaurants have limited vegetarian entrées, and many have no vegan choices. Wally’s Burgers‘ only “meatless” option is a fried egg on a bun (off-limits to vegans and egg-free vegetarians), and some establishments are actually reducing their vegetarian options rather than beefing them up (pun intended). In fact, my initial inspiration for this post stemmed from a recent depressing lunch break in which I was informed by a staff member at Re-Up BBQ that their delicious vegetarian chilli is now made with bacon fat. Ignorance is bliss… (Editor’s note: Re-Up BBQ responded via Twitter after this was published to say that the veggie chilli with bacon fat was a test item on the menu, but the chilli now on the menu “and for the foreseeable future” is vegetarian – BT)

The Shops at New West have a somewhat better selection of vegetarian fare, mostly because the establishments tend to be larger regional or national chains. Yet even the gastropub Hub, where I enjoyed a relaxing patio dinner with my S/O recently, offers only 2 vegetarian options out of their 12 entrées, and 2 of their 5 salads have meat ( sorry vegans – all of them have cheese). For a large restaurant with a seemingly hip and modern vibe, I was once again disappointed.

So where can a hungry veggie get a tasty and reasonably-priced meal in downtown New West? In the River Market, Pamola has a delicious mushroom burrito (although with a generous helping of cheese it’s not vegan-friendly), and the spinach and feta quiche at Tre Galli is a lunchtime staple of mine. Downtown also has several Japanese restaurants with vegetarian options, but my personal standby is Togo Sushi with their tasty wakame salad and yam tempura rolls.

At this point you might be thinking that us vegetarians are too demanding – after all, nobody forced me to go meat-free. Why should everyone have to cater to my personal choice? Yet there are so many more reasons why restaurants ought to offer good vegetarian and vegan options. Firstly, not everyone is meat-free by choice; many people need to be for medical or religious reasons. Secondly, vegetarian and vegan entrées can be great healthy alternatives for those looking to watch their salt, fat, or calorie intake, or those simply looking to boost their daily servings of fruit and veg. Thirdly, intentionally veggie dishes are delicious and unique. Removing protein staples such as chicken, beef, or fish from the kitchen arsenal can inspire chefs and home cooks alike to think outside the box and create exciting new flavours. Finally, vegetarian and vegan dishes are inclusive; they are usually more affordable, and are suitable for most diets, from the most restrictive, to the diehard carnivore. As a vibrant, multicultural, and forward-thinking neighbourhood, I think downtown New West deserves more vegetarian options.

What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan spots in New West? We would love to hear your suggestions!

Posted in Eats and Drinks.

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City warns of fire risk in New West

A year or two ago, we were hanging around the house when we noticed a smoky smell. Stepping out on our patio, we noticed smoke clouds coming from Grimston Park. My husband Will went over to check it out and found a small brushfire starting near the roadway. We called the fire department and discovered several other neighbours had as well, and a fire truck was already on its way. Someone had flicked a cigarette butt from a passing car and it ignited the dry grass on the side of the road. 

Just like that summer, this is proving to be a hot and dry one, and the City is asking for all of our help to prevent fires like the one we spotted from happening by being mindful of backyard fire pits and BBQs, and taking care not to do boneheaded things like flicking smouldering cigarette butts into dry grass. 

A City press release says:

Crews from New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services have extinguished a high number of recent rubbish and bark mulch fires, and have inspected the conditions in all city parks and interface areas. With several local municipalities issuing fire bans and advisories due to similar weather conditions, New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services continues to watch weather forecasts and prepare for any changes to the fire risk.

“It is starting to feel like summer and more people may consider barbequing or using their fire pits; we ask everyone to be very careful and alert,” added Armstrong. “If anyone sees a fire or notices any smoke please call 9-1-1.” 

New Westminster residents are asked to be cautious in the city’s large natural growth parks and green spaces where there are dry grasses and shrubs. Remember to only dispose of smoking materials in proper receptacles and the use of charcoal briquettes is strictly prohibited.

If you have questions about fire safety in New West, or related issues, you can call our fire department at 604-519-1000. 

Posted in Community.

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Unicycle and juggling lessons now offered in New West

Vancouver Circus School is now offering unicycle lessons! Drop-in unicycle and juggling lessons are open to people 10 and up, at all levels of expertise (or lack thereof). 

The next session is June 10 at 5:30pm, at Vancouver Circus School (upstairs at River Market).

Posted in Arts & Culture, Events, Family Life.

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