Category Archives: Reviews

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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

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

(604) 525-0805

* * *

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. 


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

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)

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?


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.


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



The value of ‘a pint’ in New West: a (semi) scientific exploration (AKA ‘pub crawl’)

It started like most scientific research: someone asked “why?” then sought the answer.

Except that I asked “how much”, and I was hardly the first to ask. As any scientist will tell you, most science is just collecting more data to confirm results already collected by others, so we boldly followed the trend to where many had been before.

In this case, the people we were following were the good people at the Campaign for Real Ale. Following a story that hit the regional media, a minor #NewWest Twitterstorm addressed important issues in the local pub scene: namely sizes of pints, and value for the money. This caught the attention of a few good people loosely affiliated with Tenth to the Fraser, and with many new options for the pub aficionado popping up in New Westminster, it seemed like a chance for a little compare and contrast exercise to better inform your summer pubbing. The actual research was performed on a summery day in early May, but now that summer has arrived, the results are ready for peer review.

Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

We assembled a cracked research team. At the first pub, attendance included no less than two PhD physicists, two MSc geoscientists, and two Professional Engineers. Our technical team consisted of stenographers, computer scientists, photographers, measurement professionals, teachers and poets. All would be put to test.

Being good scientists (or science fans… or science fiction fans…or poets) we sought to control all variables. All pubs were visited on the same Saturday night. We were rigidly consistent in our orders, and we used the same precise measuring tool at each pub. Being environmentally conscious, we would not think of wasting the beers we ordered, so they had to be consumed. This worked out doubly well, as it forced us into carbon neutrality, as it took driving between pubs completely off the table…

There were various ordering techniques amongst the assembled research party, but I attempted the greatest constancy: ordering “A pint of your second most expensive beer, please”. There may have been some discussion after this, as apparently it is an unusual way to order, but I invariably agreed to the first beer offered by the waiting professional, deeming that the Second Most Expensive Pint™. I’m not above mixing beers, and all this fluff about “starting light and moving towards fuller flavours” has no place in science.

Throwing caution to the wind, Research Team 2, code named “Tig”, ordered “whatever’s on special tonight” to provide an extra dataset for the less-beer- inclined. Mixing drinks in this manner is usually advised against, but science is not without its risks.

Dublin Castle, 7:30pm

Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the first week of May, the deck was remarkably crowded with what are presumably the denizens of Fraser View frolicking in their native habitat. The view is just short of really good, the food is above good, the waitress is named Kelsey.

Upon the warming up of the Graduated Cylinder of Truth®, I ordered the Second Most Expensive Pint™, which was apparently the Guinness-produced import “Kilkenny”, served in a tall branded glass. The service pint ordered by a member of our technical staff (Stanley Park Lager) was served in a standard BC-issue b509 “dimple” pint glass, served a little above the line to a measured 520mL.

All beers were enjoyed, including the one on special. The walk west began.

  • Pint: Kilkenny – 510ml for $6.75 ($6.62 per Metric Pint)
  • Special: Okanagan Springs Pale Ale: $4.75.

Brooklyn, 8:20pm

A crowd entered the Brooklyn to the dulcet tones of Huey Lewis and the News, which called for immediate occupation of the Billiards Room. The remarkable view of a non-eponymous bridge was hardly enjoyed, as a furious game of push-the-coloured-balls-towards-a-corner ensued. Certain River Market Staff displayed suspect caroming skills, while being stared at down the nose of more professional science-management staff. It seems dedication to data gathering has already begun to fade. Then Pink Floyd came on the stereo, and a more erudite discussion of the merits of ice-filled urinals ensued. I’m starting to like this team.

The Second Most Expensive Pint® was the quasi-local Granville Island PI, served in a glass of suspect volume but compelling pinty-shape. The B-team reports a Long Island Iced Tea of the vodka-coke-syrup variety, but with the “double” serving size on special, it was an easy choice (although, the fact it was a double probably bodes poorly for future data gathering).

  • Pint: Granville Island Pale Ale – 325ml for $4.24 ($6.52 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Double Long Island Iced Tea: $6.10

The Met, 9:00pm

Until the group sauntered into the Met at 9:02 on May 5th, this reporter had completely forgotten about both Cinco de Mayo, and that Lenny Kravitz, bereft of any irony, recorded a version of “American Woman” that grooved less than the original performed by Burton Cummings and his merry band of Mormons.

Further, the Second Most Expensive Pint™ at the Met, an India Pale Ale entitled “Green Flash” was similarly unknown to me. It was, to the concern of our data collection team, sold as a “sleeve” in a tulip glass (OMG, the variables are adding up…). I told them not to worry. Don’t let it frighten you, let it liberate you! Collect the data, we will worry about getting it through peer review later. If measured by hops per dollar, this would be the clear winner, but we had a graduated cylinder, not some magic bitterness-epiricizing device.

With conversation veering towards political and religious minefields, and the surprise appearance of a City Councillor in our midst, things had the potential to get seriously out of hand here. Not helped by the “theme of the day” special: a Cinco-de-Mayo Margarita. Good thing it wasn’t national Dog Bath day.

  • Pint: Green Flash IPA – 434ml for $6.25 ($7.49 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: a Tig-Approved Margarita: $4.50

The Heritage Grill, 9:45pm

I can only assume this is a Rock-a-Billy band. Lesee: Hollow-body Gretsch, skinny jeans and straw hat, drummer and bassist both standing up, bandana tied around a limb. Yep, that there is Rock-a-Billy. Where does Paul find these guys? I gotta hang out here more often.

At this point, it was probably prudent to put this rag-tag group in the back room, for the courtesy of the Rock-a-Billy fan base. Just how many cigars did Thurston Howell pack for this supposed Three-Hour-Tour? Did he have cigars? I seem to remember cigars.

It appears a poetry context has broken out on the little stage in the back room. A researcher is relating a rhythmic tale of “…a young man from Kent”.

Shooters? No-one said anything about shooters. Yes, those appear to be shooters. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Another funny-shaped glass, apropos for the Weisse-beer, I guess, but there are a lot of cloudy beers lately, they don’t cause headaches, do they? Don’t measure the orange! Fruit is good – gotta keep up the Vitamin C, but not part of the measure… damn variables. How am I going to get that out of the cylinder? Must think of peer review, they can be real jerks about stuff like that. What did you call that shooter again? Tastes like trouble.

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 503 ml for $6.25 ($6.22 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: The Julian (Rum & Coke): $4.50

The Drink, 10:40pm

Look, if you are out drinking pints as fast as you can- a hockey net in the urinal not only looks like the coolest idea ever- it helps with certain aiming situations that you ladies may not understand, OK? If you didn’t want to know about it, why did I come out of the bathroom encouraging you all to go look at it?

Man, this place is cool. They seem to have got the hipster thing down without the grimy bits. Like your hipster brother-in-law got showered and dressed up for a wedding, just enough tweed and leather to know he listens to Modest Mouse, but not drinking from a mason jar.

More cloudy white beer- these branded glasses are messing with our science, and my head. Orange is good, though. Eat the peel- that’s why Belgians never get hung over. That was Eddy Merckx’s secret: orange peels and amphetamines. Whattya mean Kronenbourg is French- Really? Eddy’s gonna kill me.

Special? That looks like some fancy cocktail. No crappy ounce-o-liquor-n-pop here: those are actual berries floating in a pool of vodka. This place is like a freaking Orange Julius with mood lighting, only fuzzier around the edges – actually, most of the edges have been fuzzed right off. Or is that me?

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 495 ml for $6.72 ($6.79 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Bliss: $7.28.

Hops, 11:25pm

Att his point, I am clearly getting smoother- at the peak of my charm. Seeing as how I strode into the place and ordered “a Pint of your second most expensive beer”, and the waitress said – I quote- “OK” [make note on pad, walk to bar to place order], like the last 17 people who stumbled in off the SkyTrain ordered the same thing – As un-nonplussed as I have ever seen. Actually a little creepy in her plussed-ness. How does she stay so plussed? What have I got if not a shock value? Is she onto us? Hide the Cylinder! They called ahead! They are all against us! The guy over there with the sombrero- I’ve seen him before, we are bring followed… or maybe he beat me to the punch, looks like the kind of jerk that saunters into a bar and asks for the second most expensive tequila….

This place is great- where are all the construction workers? Is that real wood? What did you say!?! Oh, Deschutes, I thought you were calling me names. This stuff is definitely the schute. In a good way. Pity the fool over there on Team B with the fruit-less martini.

  • Pint: Deschutes IPA (“Sleeve’)– 383 ml for $7.00 ($9.13 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Martini w/Grey Goose (but no floating fruit): $8.55.

Terminal Pub: 12:15

Depressing Halo song, then Cyley Myrus….starting to get me down. What!?! A Scientist never leaves his cylinder behind! This is unacceptable! Run Forrest, Run! Is that waitress giving me attitude? Hope she doesn’t spit in my beer… whattya mean I’m the surely one, you sure it wasn’t her? I just ordered… second most expensive beer TEE-EM… think she likes me? Cuz her 20oz. pint is actually 520ml… that’s like 21 ounces or something… don’t you double it and add thirty? Lemee countee my fingers. Where are my fingers? Dunno… maybe making up for it being Rickards… Not sure I can drink this whole thing… Red Bull? Who gave the B Team Red Bull and Vodka after midnight? They’ll be up all night. You ever hear the sirens in this town? Gimmie some of them Nachos…you sure are prettier than your twitter… than on the twitter… Loudest Bathroom Ever… I SAID LOUDEST BATHROOM EVER! What was that about an after party?

  • Pint: undetermined… technical difficulties… please stand by….
  • Special: Vodka Red Bull – It’s not what you pay, it is what it costs you…


... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the record, there only thing for certain about “the pint” is that it changes with location and product. It was once said “a pint is a pound, the world around”, but it was also said “a pint of pure water is a pound and a quarter”. Worse, they are both right. Almost. For those raised in the warm socialist cuddle of the Metric System, this all seems baffling, so I will use the Metric System to try to make sense of pints.

Canada, being a Commonwealth country, uses the Imperial Gallon (for most things), and one eighth of the Imperial gallon is an Imperial Pint: 568ml. When you sell things like drinks in Canada, the Federal Government regulates that a pint is 568ml. Anything else is not a “true” pint. This is equal to 20 Imperial ounces, which are 28.4ml each. It also happens to represent the amount of water that weighs about 1.25 pounds. Which is equal to 568g, but you knew that already.

Down in the Excited States, they invented their own, smaller US gallon, which comprises 8 US pints, which are each 473ml. Ever pragmatic, their pint weighs just a little over a pound, and when divided up liquid ounces, each weighs an ounce (allowing for spillage). Since there are 16 ounces in a pound, there must be 16 liquid ounces in a pint. So US liquid ounces are about 29.6ml each, slightly larger than the Imperial ounce.

Ever wonder why a can of beer is 355ml, but a bottle of beer is 341ml? 355ml is exactly 12 US fluid ounces. 341ml is exactly 12 Imperial ounces. I realise that doesn’t answer the question, but it’s gotta mean something! It is also a better explanation than the one I gave my nephew: that the little bit of beer you can never get out of the can because of the rim of the can is exactly 14ml, and they put that much more in the can to make it fair. I’m a favourite uncle.

None of this explains the hybridized “Metric Pint”, which is the defacto pint served in British Columbia and much of continental Europe, and measures 500ml. Those round glasses with a handle and deep dimples that make it look like a hand grenade- what we call a “pint glass”, is typically 500ml to the line (although more will fit, up to a full pint if filled to overflowing). As are most of the “branded” glasses in which you may receive your Stella, Kronenbourg, or Kilkenny. A “sleeve” is a straight-sided tapered glass, and it is anyone’s guess of its capacity, as glass thicknesses and base heights vary widely. The one person who almost certainly does not know the capacity of the sleeve is the waiting staff delivering to you, so take it easy on them.

I could go on at length, but I’d rather do this over a pint. Of any size.


Hops a solid new addition to local pub scene

Hops on Urbanspoon

Dimly lit Hops, located beneath New Westminster SkyTrain, is ideally situated for stumbling home after a pint or few. Once the new movie theatre at Plaza 88 opens for business, it will almost certainly become a convenient spot for pre-movie drinks. But it takes more than just easy access to SkyTrain and a taxi stand to earn a new pub good customers.

There has been a pub in this location as long as I have been stomping around New West, and I remember more than one rowdy night spent here back in my college years a decade ago. Newly renovated in a similar style to the Terminal Pub or Drink (the latter is owned by the same company), Hops is clearly going after a different demographic than the rougher clientele the former bar served.

The bar at Hops

The bar at Hops

I came in for lunch to scope out the space and sample the menu, finding soft pretzels on the menu (they are a favourite treat of mine, and often don’t live up to expectations), free wifi and a nice selection of local brew on tap. Hops offers a few nice twists on the typical pub experience in New Westminster. I had the pretzels and a cup of chowder, and found both to be very tasty and nicely presented on the plate.

The space is significantly smaller, and includes some higher end decor choices including actual artwork on the walls, designer bar, leather booths, wood accents and upscale lighting. Yet, despite these touches, the space retains some features I associate with a more downmarket pub, such as gambling machines and an economical low-pile carpet flooring in a colour that won’t show stains (instead of a more appealing but less-resilient hardwood look). The service was pleasant, but when I asked for what I thought to be a minor detail (to order only one pretzel instead of the two listed on the menu), it was a non-starter. It is a minor detail, but one that matters to me. I would be more forgiving during the dinner rush, but for lunch when there are maybe five people in the whole place, I expect a waitress to at least ask the kitchen if they can accommodate a custom order.

Pretzels, beer & clam chowder at Hops

Pretzels, beer & clam chowder at Hops

It was all more or less as expected, which puts Hops in a “solid and predictable” category of pub. The menu features mostly comfort foods, including the expected sandwiches, wraps and burgers, but there are a few nice surprises, including a gorgonzola mac & cheese with short ribs that sounded pretty good. In addition to the now ubiquitous walls-of-televisions that unfortunately (to my mind) dominates most pubs, Hops has smaller wall-mounted flatscreens in several of the booths, which I assume could be turned to whatever channel you wanted. There are also a couple of nice nooks for larger group gatherings with larger televisions. Like most pubs, it’s hard to find a seat where you aren’t distracted by screens. Even my favourite local pubs, The Terminal and the Dublin Castle, suffer from television overload from the perspective of someone who comes to a pub to hang out with friends, not TV screens.

I left with mixed feelings about Hops. I will definitely return when the movie theatre opens, and I will probably enjoy my food and brew when I do. But all the televisions are a turnoff for me. And maybe it makes me a pub snob, but I just don’t feel the same way about a pub when I see a dedicated TV screen for Keno and a pull-tab machine. The pub is only two weeks old, so new it’s still listed as “coming soon” on Tag Pubs’ website and at the time I first published this review it didn’t yet have a listing on Urbanspoon. I plan to give it some time to grow on me, and I would recommend trying it out for yourself. Let me know what you think if you do!

Photo Supplied by River Market

Wild Rice is a game changer

Wild Rice on Urbanspoon Last Saturday I went to Wild Rice again. The server recognized us, and my husband commented it was the third Saturday in a row we’ve stopped in. To say we’ve been heavily sampling what Wild Rice has to offer New West would be an accurate statement; I’ve gone to a post-market late lunch, a fancy romantic dinner, a business meeting, and a birthday party. I’ve tried most everything on the menu and I’ve liberally sampled their infamous cocktails menu. I’ve been served by various staff and I’ve gone at various times of day. The short version of this review: Wild Rice changes what going out for a meal means in New Westminster.

Photo Supplied by River Market

Here’s the longer version:

In case you haven’t heard of the restaurant, Wild Rice is a recently opened tenant in River Market, overlooking the Fraser River. They’re open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week (Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30am to 10pm, Friday & Saturday: 11:30am to 11pm, and Sunday: 11:30am to 10pm) and offer simple, fresh and modern Chinese fusion “family style”; that is, share plates large and small you can share with your dining companions that come in no set order and in their own time as they are prepared by the kitchen. It’s the second location of the same name – the other is on Pender on the edge of Gastown in Vancouver – and much has been glowingly written about Wild Rice’s menu and service since the first location opened in 2001.

Chef Todd Bright leads a cooking class (photo supplied by River Market)

Chef Todd Bright offers dairy free fare and many gluten free and vegan options. Many of the ingredients have been carefully sourced from ethical, local, small scale producers by owner Andrew Wong, and this attention to detail is reflected in the prices on the menu. This is not the least expensive restaurant in town, although there are definitely bargains to be had – the lunch time truffle salt and szechuan pepper tofu with braised mushrooms, water chestnuts and fresh peas served in a bowl on rice may very well be the most perfect comfort food of all time for only $10.

Seared Albacore Tuna

My favourite items so far? Besides the lunchtime salt and pepper tofu which will keep me coming back with regularity (a fuller variation is also on the dinner menu at $13), I’d pick the seared albacore tuna with ginger shallot daikon, black vinegar reduction and toasted sesame seeds ($14), maple hill chicken kung po with twice cooked peanuts, local broccoli, rice noodles ($19), turnip cake with shiitake mushroom, smoked tofu and pickled vegetable salad ($7), and the vegetable spring roll with seasonable local vegetables, ginger soy dip ($8) for the top of my list.

Shrimp Toast (Photo Supplied by River Market)

My least favourite? Although I enjoyed the flavour of the hot and sour soup, I wasn’t “in love” with it – the broth to veggie ratio seemed high on the broth side and it just didn’t blow me away the way I was expecting it to. I have one other minor quibble: while their great local craft beer is well priced at $5 a sleeve, I find their per-glass wine prices a little high for New Westminster at $8-10 for a 6oz glass. (Update: Thanks to Wild Rice for the correction – their wine is 6oz not 4oz! )

Family-style modern Chinese fusion isn’t for everyone (one friend tells me “this isn’t real Chinese food”) but it is a type of eating I personally love. Like tapas style dining the now defunct Orange Room tried hard to capture but didn’t quite nail, I love sitting down with a group passing plates back and forth, and experiencing little bites of many kinds of food.

All in all, however, Wild Rice has so far lived up to the hype, and I find the unpretentious and cozy atmosphere welcoming and comfortable. The staff are top notch, happy to make recommendations, and know the exact right moments to appear and disappear. Two thumbs up.

Across the room (photo supplied by River Market)

But really, the point of this review isn’t about the food or the service – both well documented as being above average and star quality – as much as it is about how Wild Rice’s choice to set up shop in our community has changed what going out for a meal means in New Westminster.

For a very long time, the choices for a fancy dinner here in our city have been twofold for me: reliable chain eateries with predictable everything, or independently owned crapshoots that might be awesome or might be horrific from one visit to the next.

I don’t want you to get me wrong – there are a number of places I frequent and enjoy and heartily recommend (and many of them we’ve written about at length here on Tenth) in our city. Places like Okonomi Sushi or the Dublin Castle consistently impress me with their food quality and freshness. And while I can be spotted at Boston Pizza, White Spot, the Keg, and even The Boathouse, they are… well, predictable. The variables are not about the food; the variables in these familiar places are more environmental: service, parking, and how clean the bathrooms are. It becomes less about the sum, and more about the parts.

New Westminster News Leader editor Chris Bryan and I talked about the shift a few weeks ago when we talked about the Newsmaker of the Year - the feeling that New Westminster is once again becoming a golden city like in the early days of our province. Wild Rice is a part of that shift for me and has managed to completely change the game by capturing the essence of the experience I always want to have when I head out for a meal cooked by someone else without me having to leave my town. Wild Rice offers the trifecta of awesomeness – inventive food that surprises me, gracious staff who are able to be invisible and available at the same time, and decor and ambience I can’t get at home.

Simply? You should go.

Wild Rice is located in the River Market at 810 Quayside Drive. For reservations or info, call 778-397-0028 or find them online or Twitter or Facebook. 







The Hungry Hound appeals to Sapperton pet lovers

Inside the Hungry Hound

Inside the Hungry Hound

Everyone has their shopping weakness, and mine is a well stocked pet boutique. Not the kind selling doggie strollers and puppy sweaters – although my pit bull does look cute in pink – but a place with knowledgeable staff, natural foods, and well-made equipment and toys.

I meant to pop into Sapperton’s The Hungry Hound and simply take a look around, but I walked out with armfuls of stuff, a three-figure receipt, and absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

The Hungry Hound is a small store, managed by knowledgeable staff who have backgrounds in grooming, training and handling. They clearly love animals and are invested in their products. Every customer gets personalized attention and service, along with cookies and cuddles for any furry counterparts.

The store stocks only high-quality items for dogs, cats, birds and bunnies. The store is limited by its size so selection is not overwhelming but everything in stock is clearly chosen with care. The toys are reputable, durable brands like Tuffy’s, Chuckit!, West Paw and Kong. Food and treats include corn-free, wheat-free, whole food and single-protein options – just the thing for scrupulous pet owners or dogs with special dietary needs.

I spotted several local companies and specialty items, including supplements, training gear and medical equipment. Again, it’s a small store so it can’t be everything for everyone, but the selection covers the basics and the staff will work with you to find the right product, whether that means bringing your dog into the store for a fitting, returning a used item, or placing a special order.

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

When I learned about the buy-one-get-one and other sales for the holiday season, I abandoned my chitchat and started scooping up ChuckIts, bully sticks, and dehydrated sweet potatoes. At 50% off I even succumbed to a massive Tuffy dinosaur as an early Christmas present for my resident four-legger (you’re welcome, Chica).

Sapperton residents are faithful to The Hungry Hound, and it’s easy to see the appeal. It’s great for the pet guardian, especially one looking for good deals this time of year. It would also be an excellent resource if you’re shopping for a pet fanatic but not sure where to start. Either way, the folks at The Hungry Hound will hook you up.

The Hungry Hound
102 – 455 East Columbia
New Westminster, BC


Le Saigonnais: Vietnamese Cuisine Served with Style

Pho at Le Sagonnais

Le Saigonnais serves great pho—as it’s pleasantly large, has lots of flavour, and isn’t too fatty.

Proper Vietnamese food has finally come to Downtown New Westminster—and Le Saigonnais has brought it with style! As a resident of the neighbourhood, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the first influx of this cheap and delicious cuisine.

Le Saigonnais isn’t your typical dive that you see lining the Kingsway corridors. Instead, the owners have clearly dressed this place up. The restaurant features its own bar, leather booths, and a modern, low light, almost Zen aesthetic—almost more suited to a swanky Japanese place on Robson. The space could still do with some new carpet, but it’s still one of the fancier Vietnamese restaurants around.

Aside from shiny splendour however, I usually measure the quality of a Vietnamese restaurant based on three key dishes: pho, lemongrass chicken (or pork), and spring rolls.

Lemongrass chicken at Le Sagonnais

The lemongrass chicken is a winner: delightful presentation, a nice cut of meat and garnished with a fresh and vibrant lemongrass seasoning.

The real make-or-break dish for a Vietnamese restaurant is the noodle soup, which is called pho. For those unfamiliar, the dish consists of a seasoned beef broth with rice noodles. All Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver offer a House Special Pho, where you always get a noodle soup topped with well-done flank, sliced rare beef, soft tendon, tripe, and beef balls. If any of these don’t yet appeal to you, don’t worry—you can also pick and choose various combinations. It also comes with fresh bean sprouts, basil, lemon, and jalapeno peppers—all of which I throw directly into the broth. And make sure to top it off with some hoisin and hot sriracha sauce.

Salad rolls at Le Sagonnais

Salad rolls at Le Sagonnais didn't impress. While they were a good size, the price seemed high and the rice paper was a bit too stiff.

Le Saigonnais serves great pho—as it’s pleasantly large, has lots of flavour, and isn’t too fatty. At $7.00, it’s slightly more expensive than what Vancouverites might be used to, but I’m willing to cough up the extra nickels.

Over time, I’ve learned that for many, the slippery noodles of pho can be tricky to eat. For those friends who have yet to reach a certain proficiency with chopsticks, I often recommend the lemongrass chicken on rice. There are several takes on this dish depending on where you go—and the meat can often end up fatty, or contain some unwieldy bones. Le Saigonnais, however, really comes through with this one. Aside from the delightful presentation, they provided a nice cut of chicken, garnished with a fresh and vibrant lemongrass seasoning. It is well worth the $8.00.

Le Saigonnais Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

What didn’t quite impress were the salad rolls. Filled with lettuce, vermicelli, bean sprouts, basil, pork ham, and prawns, the dish also comes with a peanut sauce and is usually one of my favourites. The rice paper that it came wrapped in however, was a bit stiff. I’m not sure if they were premade and sat around for a while, or if they just weren’t soaked for long enough. At $6.00, they might be a bit steep, but they were a good size, and if they get their rice paper right, it should be worth another try.

Overall, Le Saigonnais has a new upscale look that goes beyond your typical Vietnamese restaurant. The pho doesn’t disappoint, and fans of lemongrass chicken will appreciate their fresh take on the dish. You might have to bring a bit of extra pocket change, but in an area that’s been starved of Vietnamese for some time, it’s worth it. I’ll definitely be back to try the spicy noodle soup—and when I do, I’ll probably give the salad rolls another go.

Le Saigonnais is located at 634 Columbia St. in New Westminster.

Been to Le Saigonnais? Let me know what you think @BryceTarling!


Piccolo Gifts brings the world to Sapperton


Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Piccolo World Gifts is a small Sapperton storefront with a global worldview. Inside, you’ll find an assortment of bright, beautiful, and sometimes random treasures from around the world. It’s interesting enough on its own, but chatting with store owner Nancy Patrick brings a whole new appreciation to her collection.

Patrick is a highly accomplished business consultant with two PhDs and an impressive resume. Her travels have taken her around the world and she’s always managed to combine her business travel with exploration into other cultures’ art, artifacts, and collectibles. She sources her inventory directly from its country of origin and displays it by region, with each section flanked by artwork and coffee table books for context.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Committed to making exotic items accessible, Patrick works to keep prices reasonable and enjoys working one-on-one with customers to find a unique gift, whatever their price point. If you are shopping for anyone who’s known a home outside Canada, you’ll find something here that will resonate with them: ceramics, masks, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, accessories, and art abound from China, the Carribbean, Russia, Europe and a dozen other diverse regions.

Piccolo has one of the most comprehensive stamp and coin inventories around, whether you have a serious collector on your shopping list or (like me) you just enjoy the stunning presentation of the mounted collections.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Take advantage of the current holiday sales with 20-50% off items in-store, or combine your shopping trip with a visit to the in-store Piccolo Tea House, open December 2.

You can find Piccolo World Gifts at 420 East Columbia Street. The store is open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm.



Fare at River Market’s Crab Shop is fiendishly good

The Crab Shop

The Crab Shop

Battered & fried fish is usually a rare greasy indulgence for me. Cod can be rather flavourless, and often is more grease and crunch than fish. Not at The Crab Shop. The batter is crispy but not thick, and the cod tastes fresh and delicious. The fries are good too, and the homemade tartar sauce is divine. In fact, the fish & chips at River Market‘s new Crab Shop is so good I couldn’t resist ordering it for lunch two days in a row.

But dangerously delicious fish & chips are not the only thing the Crab Shop does well. The menu includes a number of decadent seafood dishes, including creamy chowder, fish cake burgers, crab meat sandwiches, and fish tacos. I’ve had the chowder and the fish cake burger as well, and both were excellent. None of the menu items are exactly diet-friendly, but they are worth every chubby calorie.

The Crab Shop on Urbanspoon

Fresh-caught seafood is also available to take home for your own culinary creations. Crab Shop owner Marcel Gregori is a commercial fisherman. As you’d expect from the name, he sells live crab, but also clams, frozen and fresh fish and items like crab cakes to take home and cook.

On a frigid November day, it’s lovely to nosh on the Crab Shop’s rich fishy fare, but it’ll get even better in the summer when the Crab Shop can roll up the garage-style door to the Quay and customers can enjoy their fish & chips with gelato from (soon to be open) Tre Galli on the boardwalk.


The smile’s in the aisle: Thrifty Foods comes to New West

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

I have a confession. I have a Thrifty Foods problem. I grew up in Mill Bay BC (home of one of the first Thrifty Foods) so it holds a special place in my heart. I dream about the cheese scones and I wax philosophically about the marinated meats. It’s grocery nirvana. The first time I brought my husband home to the island, I told him we HAD to go to Thrifty Foods.

“Its just a grocery store, “ he said, “ I hate grocery stores”

“Not this one”, I smugged, “It’s special. It’s the happiest place on earth…it’s the Disney of grocery stores!”

He was not impressed. But he did like the scones.

As I was waiting to cross the street to check out the new store that opened today in Sapperton, I excitedly texted the aforementioned husband.

“The new Thrifty’s in Sapperton is open 24 hours seven days a week! HOORAY!”

“Oh great”, he responded “ I’ll never see you again”.

Islanders are passionate about Thrifty’s. Its a community grocery store that is more locally and sustainably focused than other big grocery chains. The outer perimeter of the store is filled with BC produce, local artisan baked goods and sweets, ocean wise seafood and, of course, Island Farms dairy products (yum). Grocery items in the centre of the store range from well known brands to locally canned preserves to Thrifty’s own label. Price wise, they are comparable on most things, but they do tend to be a bit higher priced for butcher items. The quality and selection is beyond compare. Think Whole foods without the big price tag.

Have I mentioned the scones?

The best thing for me about Thrifty’s has always been its staff. They are almost freakishly friendly.. Today, I had a cookie handed to me by one of the managers from my ‘hometown store’ who just came over to help. He had a friendly smile and nod (and cookie) for everyone who passed his way, chatting with them about the new store and how happy they were to be in New Westminster. I later was in the cereal aisle looking for oatmeal when out of nowhere, a helpful Thrifty-er explained the multiples pricing structure. Then thanked me for hanging out at their new store.

I think they might put something in the cookies…

I do wish that the outer perimeter was a bit wider to allow for carts and strollers to navigate through easier. The grocery aisles were nice and wide, but I did get in a traffic jam at the scones…they really are that good. I’d also recommend walking or taking the train if possible. Not only is it better for our planet, but the parking lot underneath the store is $5 an hour for parking. They do validate, but it’s still a bit steep. And with only one machine to pay for parking at, it can also get a wee bit busy.

All in all, I think this store is going to be a great addition to the New Westminster community. They already have scads of events coming up partnering with the Royal Columbia Hospital Foundation, and the store is sure to be a welcome addition to an area that doesn’t have many grocery stores in easy access.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I hear a scone calling my name…


Local Author Book Review: Measure of a Man by JJ Lee

Psst…we have a signed copy of JJ Lee’s book to give away! Instructions at the end of the post.   The giveaway is over – regular reader Pamela Findling won!

Local resident JJ Lee is exactly what I love about New Westminster. He is affable and welcoming, debonair and interesting, and importantly, he takes part in our community. JJ Lee is a CBC and Vancouver Sun mens’ fashion columnist who recently released his first book, Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. Measure of a Man is a memoir that blends social history of the suit with the often tumultuous relationship with his dad. It is based on a full length radio documentary for CBC’s Ideas.

The book is so lovely to read; at times incredibly witty and wry, and at other times endearing and touching. It also explores themes I wasn’t expecting to find in a book about a suit or a book about mens’ clothing.  I found myself thinking about children who live through less than ideal experiences as they grow up, and I pondered the resiliency of those kids. I asked Lee what he thought. “…when you think about it, how is it possible that a book about menswear, suits, and fashion history, can be so entangled with thoughts and ideas around fatherhood and parenting, but indeed it is. I’d hate to think all children survive their parents’ mistakes. I think literary childhoods tend to be tales of resiliency because that’s the stuff of drama and storytelling. Bad stuff happens in childhood. Those who survive get to write about it.”

Also surprisingly, I found myself learning an awful lot about suit wearing, style, and fashion history while reading the book. Lee seamlessly weaves together anecdotes and discussion about his family and his relationship with his father with incredibly interesting pieces of fashion history and commentary. I should note my personal style isn’t really fashionable, per se; I call it “West Coast Mom Army”  - fleece, merino wool, denim, gumboots, and rain jackets. I buy clothes on technical merit and durability, and then, secondarily, fit and colour. That said, I was inexplicably drawn to the beautiful conversational sections in Measure of a Man about fashion: the sections detailing the impactive and trend setting visionary fashion of Edward VIII, for example, or the incredibly thorough section about a pocket square/ handkerchief, their purpose and folding techniques for them. I also counted no less than five references sprinkled throughout the book to the Always-Sometimes-Never rule, which designates which buttons are opened and which buttons are closed on a suit jacket.

More than once I found myself chuckling with delight, moved from the sheer passion Lee exudes when discussing fashion. Take this discussion about pocket squares (itself only a fraction of a larger and longer section detailing the pocket square), in which Lee writes:

“Why can’t a pocket square be like a face, changing with moods, whimsy, and circumstances? A man with a permanently fixed half-smile would eventually be thought of as insincere, if not mad. So it goes with the pocket square. It requires only the flourish of the hand to give it new life, a new expression. A quick plunge into the pocket, and a quick tug partly out, followed by a glance in the mirror, and the final manipulation is magical. A neatly folded square for the morning business meeting can be transformed into a scrunched rosette by happy hour. Ta-da.”

The history lessons in Measure of a Man got me thinking about my own son and how children’s clothing is generally cheaply and foreign made, and how that might change over his lifetime. The most important thing, says Lee, is that we pass the knowledge on, regardless of how we are related. “Someone needs to teach men one can dress sharply without being a snob or hung up,” says Lee. “Understanding fit and proportion is everything. And it cost nothing. Guys just have to help each other how to do it right.”

Measure of a Man also examines a portion of the formative years of the city of Vancouver with an amazing insight into the legendary Modernize Tailors, an institution on Vancouver’s Eastside. ”The tide of history has swung back in favour of dressing up,” JJ says. “Fine tailors will always be needed. They may come from countries all around the world and men who like attentive, well-made clothes will need them all. I do think tailoring needs formal apprenticeship programs in Canada. David Wilkes, who is a great young tailor mentioned in the book, cobbled together enough to educate and train himself. It can be done. But it is rare.”

Interestingly, New Westminster’s BC Penitentiary had a tailoring certificate program for inmates before its’ closure in 1980. From the New Westminster Public Library’s amazing historical photograph collection:

View of the interior of the Tailor Shop at the British Columbia Penitentiary. Photograph is taken looking north on the east side. This type of shop was located in the Industrial Building, shops C-1 to C-4 and Vocational School F-1. This was just one of the industrial trade shops. Inmates could take training leading to apprenticeship certification in tailoring, barbering, auto body, auto mechanics, painting, carpentry, sheet metal, and welding. Equipment from these shops was moved to the new Kent Institution in 1979, in order that inmates transferred from the Pen to Kent could continue their training. The pen opened in 1878, and closed on May 10, 1980. From the New Westminster Public Library Archives. Source: Jim Clawson Accession Number 1582

As a fledgling book author, JJ Lee says he struggled with keeping on task. “Writing is awful for me because I listen to sports talk radio: ‘BMac, Taylor, and Tomlinson, Goldie, whatup! JJ in New West. Here’s my take,‘” he jokes. “I’m very distracted. Also, there’s the internet, so don’t expect War and Peace from me.  I would have never written a book without my editor, Anita Chong. She approached me and encouraged me to explore my relationship with my father, more so than I did in my radio documentary. So, I don’t have the same experience as many aspiring writers.”

On his blog in June, Lee acknowledges his path isn’t really a traditional writer’s path. He posts, “I know it wasn’t fair. I did not slave on a manuscript for years. I did not wake up at 4 in the morning to peck out some pages before the kids woke up. I did not go through the pain of rejection letters. I was lucky.”

“Mind you, I went through an entirely different kind of pain: writing a book proposal – really, what the hell is that?” he jokes.

Lee says New Westminster is very supportive.  ”This community can be very kind to writers. It is affordable and safe and that mean’s it can give a writer and his or her family time to take a stab at the risky business of writing for a year or two like we did.”

He cites Queens Park and Moody Park as two of his favourite places and lists the schools as part of what makes New Westminster so great. And like so many of us, JJ Lee lists New Westminster’s inexplicable yin-yang as a draw. “The diversity is rich and it’s simultaneously urban and a small town. Perfect.”

JJ Lee is also in good company here in New Westminster. “I am aware of great writers being in this city. They are ones that I admire immensely. Annabel Lyon wrote a beautiful book. Steven Galloway is a star and it freaks me out to think your barber talks to him every few weeks. But I’ve never met any of them. I just breath in the vapours and hope I pick up some of their mojo… I know my friends like the fine memoirists, Steve Burgess, who wrote Who Killed Mom, and Robyn Michele Levy, who wrote Most of Me - but they’re comrades from CBC.”

Measure of a Man is a great read, and I’d have to rank it as one of the better books I have read this year. It felt like the beauty and creativity of fiction but with the truthfulness of non-fiction. I find it very refreshing to read a book that makes me re-evaluate something I strongly believe and formerly thought was unshakeable. I have spent the last few days since finishing the book thinking about what I’d read and talking about it to others. I found myself thinking of my own father and his style of dress. He was a furnace man, a very physical and hard worker, and  I remember navy blue polo shirts, cheap denim, wool socks and pull on work boots. There’s a scent, too – diesel and smoke and Sunlight powdered laundry detergent, which he used to scrub his hands with after work.

Measure of a Man also left me wanting to learn more about the social history of clothing, an area I’ve never really had on my radar. I asked JJ Lee if he had plans for another book. “I have hopes to write another book but it really depends on readers. Books sales matter. Readers making choices matter. They’ll decide if I get the chance to do it again.”


JJ Lee is active on Twitter and maintains a great blog. He’s available for book clubs too!  Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit is available locally at Black Bond Books (their first order sold out, more coming next week, they tell me) and New Westminster Public Library (hardcopy only so far, e-book coming) or order hardcopy or e-book online.

Or… better yet…. get a free signed copy from us! Tenth to the Fraser is very honoured to have one signed copy to give away. To enter, leave a comment and tell us what piece of clothing you most clearly remember your dad wearing (or any special guy in your life). We’ll draw one random winner next Thursday, October 13th at 2PM. 






Burger Heaven

Many readers are familiar with Burger Heaven. In any city there is always one restaurant who uses their dishes to poll readers on hot button issues or elections, and in our fair city, Burger Heaven is that restaurant. But do their burgers boast yum factor?

The Tenth to the Fraser Editorial Board + 1 (Will, Briana, Jen and Ross) had a rare kid free night not too long ago, and we decided to start the evening off with burgers and beers at Burger Heaven.

My burger (or what's left of it)

The decor of Burger Heaven is pretty tired and I know the teems of photos of 70s patrons are meant to fill us with a sense of nostalgia, but I’d really like to see a makeover of fresh and light colours. But if decor is my only beef (pardon the pun) then a restaurant is doing pretty good.

The burgers are fresh tasting and flavourful, inventive and relatively well priced. They come with salad or fries, or, if you’re a “want it all” type of gal such as myself, you can request half and half. The fries are fantastic –  big thick wedges of potato-y yumminess. That up there is a bacon cheeseburger, sort of my baseline burger I’ll order in multiple places. I’d say Burger Heaven’s bacon cheeseburger ranks as one of my top 5 burgers. It’s consistently tasty and they don’t scrimp on the bacon or the cheese.

Ross tried the the lamb burger and reports it was “juicy, and not overly salty.” We all came away satisfied with the food, service, and the total on our bill.

Burger Heaven has been around since 1984, and is located at the bottom of Tenth Street and you can check out their website at or call ahead at 604 522 8339. They are licensed, accessible, and kid friendly.


Victoria Sushi one of the freshest in New West

Photo: Lotusutol (via Flickr)

Photo: Lotusutol (via Flickr)

There is an often repeated witticism regarding small Alberta towns having a liquor store and 7-Eleven on every corner. This is only a slight exaggeration of course. However, if one were to suggest in New Westminster there is a sushi restaurant on every corner that might just be an understatement.

Victoria Sushi is not really your typical sushi restaurant. A small space with only a few tables nestled within a high-density residential district and tucked away at the bottom of a multi-use residential complex…ok, so maybe it is. So from the outside and upon first settling in it doesn’t seem that different but before long the cheerful and very helpful staff make you feel right at home. The restaurant is extremely clean and the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful; a good change of pace from other alternatives and a very rejuvenating way to end a busy day. The owners are friendly, accommodating and most importantly seem to truly appreciate your patronage. Never to rush or leave you feeling unwelcomed or that you are just another customer that needs to clear out so new paying clientele can take your place. And then there is the food……

Victoria Sushi on Urbanspoon

Now I must be completely honest. I wouldn’t say I am a seasoned sushi connoisseur but I have eaten at a lot of sushi restaurants in the past and I am not referring to just Edo Japan and Tokyo Express. I live in New Westminster remember, how could I not? In my experience Victoria Sushi repeatedly serves the freshest sushi I have had in the area. The portions are excellent, the taste is supreme, and I don’t recall a time I have not overate. A perfect segue into healthy eating – for those looking for healthy alternatives, they give you the option of brown rice.

If I can find anything negative to say about Victoria Sushi it is that the location is not that accessible or convenient to reach by foot from downtown. If you do not live in the area it is a pretty good hike. Thus, parking can be an issue and will continue to be an issue as word spreads. But like all great things a little bit of sacrifice makes the reward that much more worth it!


New home decor store Sonse Home Design opens in Uptown New West

Sonse Home Design.

Sonse Home Design.

I heard about Sonse Home Design from Sheila Keenan whom I follow on Twitter (she writes a great blog about shopping locally in New West) a week or so ago. Promptly forgot about it, but caught a glimpse of Sonse today as I exited London Drugs and decided I’d better check it out before I forgot again!

It just opened a few weeks ago and the place looks amazing. Walking in, I experienced an immediate feeling of calm, sensed friendly energy and was drawn into her colourful and thoughtful staging. Joanne greeted me with a warm smile and friendly conversation.

We got to talking, and it turns out this is Joanne’s first foray into the retail rat race, but she’s got over 15 years of decorating experience in the television industry so she’s well equipped with design chops and her enthusiasm and knowledge shines through during our conversation. Clearly she’s a great resource, not to mention has a talented eye for the aesthetic, and offers staging, redecorating, room planning and holiday decorating services to support her retail location at 544 6th Street.

Sonse (pronounced son-say) is full of beautiful finds. Having just redecorated my home office in a cottage shabby shic style attempt, I was on the lookout for a few knick knacks and I hit the jackpot here! My budget is pretty weak, but I found some pretty seashells and may go back for gorgeous patterned wallpaper which I’ll frame as an inexpensive art option.

I’m glad I stopped by. Oh – and she’s been a New West resident for more than five years and couldn’t imagine opening a storefront anywhere else! Happy to support local shopping!

Find Sonse Home Design on Twitter or Facebook, or call 604-522-3377.


Okonomi – As You Like It

There’s a little sushi joint in New West on Fourth Street, at Columbia, in the building that formerly housed Lafflines. Apparently it used to be an Italian restaurant, but for the life of me I can’t remember anything like that there. In a city with a billion sushi restaurants (okay, I exaggerate, but seriously, there are a lot), Okonomi has won me over completely with their inventive and interesting rolls, awesome service, and great pricing. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve just opened up a second location in the space formerly housing The Orange Room.

Okonomi Sushi (6th St) on Urbanspoon

What makes Okonomi unique in a sea of local sushi competition is the fact that both their downtown and uptown locations are enormous. There are always enough seats, I never feel crowded, and they can accomodate spur of the moment meet ups of 10 or 12 people with relative ease. Their food is fresh, delicious, and well made. The menu alone has something ridiculous, like 200 items, and it can take a good number of minutes to pick from the extensive menu. Tip: don’t go when you are starving and can’t concentrate.

Their rice is also pink, which threw me off at first. The server explained they boil organic blueberries and cabbage additives in the water they use to cook the rice to make it more nutritious. I didn’t notice a taste difference but one of my dining companions did. They also have burning stone tataki, a fun experience where you get to cook your own food on an incredibly hot rock.

The portions are great and I’ve over-ordered a few times. Their prices are very reasonable. I’m not really a fan of leftover sushi, but I’ve gotten used to their portion sized and so that happens a lot less these days. Okonomi means “as you like it”, and I definitely like it.

They have free delivery, free wifi, and are licensed.

Okonomi Downtown is at 26 4th Street or 778-397-0567

Okonomi Uptown is at 620 6th Street or 778-397-1003


Emilio’s Deli a friendly, family-run ‘be yourself’ kind of deli

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

With summer beginning, families are starting to enjoy Downtown New Westminster and the Waterfront and exploring the River Market. A very friendly family at Emilio’s Deli is really making people smile, reintroducing them to the Market and starting to introduce themselves. People smell the fresh variety of cheeses and meats, but the also see and hear the friendly father and his sons getting to know people.

Tony Sr. is a very warm-hearted man with a wide range of interesting experiences in his life. He’s watched and learned from his family through his entire life about delis and cooking and has always enjoyed it. Tony “loves the public” and wanted to find a way to show and enjoy what he’s learned and create what he calls a “family-oriented, be yourself kind of deli” for people to enjoy and for him to enjoy as well. With that great spirit he’s worked together with Donald’s and the River Market to create Emilio’s Deli (named after Tony Sr.’s father Emilio), so the legacy of his father could live on through Tony and his sons.

Tony Sr., along with his sons Niko and Tony Jr. are building a fresh and diverse variety of meats and cheeses for the public to enjoy. The whole family wants people to tell them what they enjoy and they are having fun together working towards their goal. One thing that Tony Sr. knew people liked were “nice, fresh and hefty sandwiches made individually for people.” To make them best, Tony hasn’t got a list of sandwiches. He meets people and finds out directly from each person individually and makes them what they want for a great price.

As well as Tony Sr., Tony Jr. and Niko are a key part of Emilio’s Deli. Niko is a young man learning quickly and enjoys working with his dad. Niko loves the Waterfront in New Westminster because he is “amazed at the good people around here – everyone is so nice.” People are very special to Niko, so working with his Dad and meeting all the nice people is making him excited. He has many ideas about how to help more people enjoy Emilio’s Deli and so Niko and Tony Jr. work constantly with their Dad to learn about the meats and cheeses and find out what people want. Along with Tony and the boys, Tony Sr.’s girlfriend Roberta also likes to help out when she can to enjoy people.

The boys help people understand and enjoy the variety of flavors Emilio’s offer and they also are learning about the unique combinations of meats and cheeses that different people enjoy. Together the whole family wants people to come down to Emilio’s to meet them and enjoy the food. The family is smiling because “people are starting to phone for party trays,” “sandwich platters are on the way” and want to thank all the people for their great support. “Specials are on the way!” according to the whole family.

Emilio’s Deli is easy to find. They’re just inside the door of Donald’s Market. They want to work together to help and enjoy all the new vendors starting up now or coming soon to the River Market. As Tony Sr. puts it, he “enjoys everyone and enjoys watching them enjoy the great stuff he provides at the deli” and as Niko says, he wants people to “Give us a chance and you be the Judge.” Emilio’s Deli is a yummy and friendly place for people to enjoy the waterfront and explore the many new and tasty combinations of meats, cheeses and sandwiches. Tony and his family help the personality of the waterfront emerge in a new way, while helping the great family spirit of New Westminster live on as it has for 150 years.


Aroka Vintage a treasury for unique decor

This is a guest post by Neal Michael, who lives with his wife in the ever-changing downtown area of New West. His favourite things about New West include running through the different neighbourhoods each weekend, the boardwalk, the market, the architecture and his neighbours.

Inside Aroka Vintage.

Inside Aroka Vintage.

Tucked back off Columbia Street, sharing a cozy retail space with quirky Arundel Mansion is Aroka Vintage, a recently opened vintage décor wedding shop. Owned and run by Dawna Graham, a resident of New West, Aroka specializes in the sale and rental of niche décor items and dresses.

Not sure what qualifies as niche décor? Think ornate tea cups and saucers, glass dessert cups, finely decorated china, pewter candle sticks, brass clocks, lamps and more. It’s like stepping into a beautifully curated antique shop minus the dust.

Graham started the business to fill the niche for an increased demand of vintage décor items for weddings and other functions. Having previously owned a home décor business, she witnessed the move away from impersonal, cookie-cutter decorating to a focus on the unique, intimate and classic. Though a long-time collector and self-confessed market junkie, Graham spent just under a year and half to source and select her offerings from all over western Canada. Her extensive selection focuses on what she calls ‘true’ vintage or

More vintage goodness inside Aroka

More vintage goodness inside Aroka

pieces from pre-1970’s. Those pieces that have a story, not an Ikea stamp on them.

Though her shop would easily be at home in a more trendy area of the lower mainland, Graham cited New West as an ideal location for a number of reasons. “I live in New West, my grandfather is in the museum, my grandmother is buried in Fraser cemetery and the architecture. New Westminster was a natural fit.” Anyway, Aroka would be out of place in a newer commercial space. The plank floor, large glass frontage and rear windows all help showcase Graham’s collection.

Whether soon to be married or not, pop by Aroka Vintage for a look at Graham’s beautifully curated selection of vintage items. Who knows, you may just find a reason to get married.

Aroka Vintage is located at 42 Begbie Street. To reach the store, call 778-397-7999.


Review: Graze Market and Deli

This is a picture of a pulled pork sandwich on plate with coleslaw filling in the bun.


A few times now, a number of the local twitter geeks have had a conversation online about food. Because food is the greatest common denominator. One of the places that continually gets mentioned is Graze Market and Deli and we all salivate all over our keyboards and dreamily discuss what makes an awesome pulled pork sandwich.

So what does make an awesome pulled pork sandwich? We’ll get to that.

This is the logo for Graze Market and Deli.

Graze Market and Deli opened up in Sapperton at the end of last summer. It’s a deli, a bit of a grocery, and a restaurant all in one.  Their deli features some fresh preserved meats and the bacon is amazing. Their produce selection was a little bit disappointing – but what they did have was advertised as local or organic, and was well priced. Their grocery shelves were a bit sparse – only one or two packages of each type of item and lots of empty space, but the items they did have were high quality and organic in nature. They also feature Avalon Dairy milk products as well as local and organic produce and eggs. They sell beef from their own herds, who frolic and roam in the southern interior Fraser River plateau in the Cariboo as well as free range chickens and turkeys. You can buy all cuts of meats and sausages as well.

What they lack in the grocery department, they make up for in the hot food you eat right there.

What makes their pork products stand out  - from the bacon to the pulled pork sandwiches – is that Graze Market and Deli offers pork from the good folks at Gelderman Farms, a former RCFM vendor (they’re too busy this year to make it but you can buy their stuff at Graze) that hail from Abbotsford. If you ask him, Jerry Gelderman will tell you that the key to good pork is happy pigs and he sees that they are happy porkers by feeding them a high quality vegetable based diet custom blended on the farm, no animal meat by-products in feed, no growth hormones (as per Canadian Regulations), and no therapeutic antibiotic treatment. Gelderman Farms pork supports the 100 mile diet. The biggest thing, Jerry tells me, is that the pigs are given room to run and root and generally just be pigs.

Another ingredient to a fantastic pulled pork sandwich is people who know how to cook and present food. Danny and Karen at Graze provide amazing BBQ with fresh made and generous sides like cole slaw, potato salad or slow cooker baked beans, and their BBQ sauce is homemade.  The bun they use is lovely and fresh and the price is reasonable. They also offer a selection of burgers and ribs, as well as a well made veggie burger.

Their website needs work and updating – two different phone numbers are listed and the hours are hard to find (and I think they are wrong) but Graze is a nice little gem with ample free parking in the heart of Sapperton.

Graze is located at 101-450 E. Columbia. Their number is 604-528-0101 Call ahead to make sure they are open.


Coming Home Cafe is zany, colourful and lovingly retro

The Coming Home Cafe

The Coming Home Cafe

A cash-only diner with serve-yourself coffee ready to pour from a hot plate, the Coming Home Cafe may be low on frills but it doesn’t skimp on the flourishes. Homey meals like mac ‘n cheese are spiced up with gourmet additions like chorizo, and on that hot plate coffee is Kicking Horse Coffee – quality stuff. Inside, the decor is the kind of thrift-store chic you’d see in an art-school major’s first college flat. It’s zany, colourful and lovingly retro.

I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the Coming Home Cafe, but I’m not often around that part of Sixth. Until recently I’d only stopped by for a brief coffee on the patio, but after seeing a bunch of people mention the cafe on Twitter and in the comments on various posts, I made a point of coming by again.

I’m using Coming Home’s free wifi to write this post now on my second visit this week. Last time I had the divine pulled pork sandwiches (flavourful, topped with coleslaw on a just-crispy-enough bun). Today though, I’m trying the mac ‘n cheese special mentioned above. The nostalgic classic is decadently creamy and cheesy, and that chorizo gives it a nice touch of spice. The prices seemed a mite high at first glance until I tasted the quality ingredients – and saw the note on the board that all prices include HST. Mains range between about $6-8 for the most part, and the coffee starts at $2.75 (but includes a free refill with meal).

I haven’t tried the all-day breakfast yet, but the menu looks great, and I would expect the quality would be as good as lunch. There are also a few nice options like gluten-free bread and options like adding tofu or sauerkraut when you build your own breakfast.

As an aside, if I ever write a post on remarkable bathrooms of New West, the Coming Home Cafe would make the list. Their washroom is a cheeky corner featuring decoupaged paper with bathroom trivia and a few hilarious diagrams. It’s not the fanciest washroom in New West, but it’s definitely memorable!

I have only three quibbles with the restaurant: like most mom-n-pop stores in New West, it’s closed on Mondays (annoying to discover when you’re standing outside the door, as I did on my first attempt to revisit this place), there’s no debit or credit card processing (if you bring out the plastic you’re directed to the G&F Financial cash machine across the street) and the music is terrible. The fiercely poppy mix is not at all my cup of tea (though some of it is so bad it edges towards ironic goodness). The first two points can be overcome with a little planning, and the last can be endured (and I suppose could be a plus for fans of autotune and MC Hammer / Black Eyed Peas mashups).

It’s a short walk from the centre of Uptown, but The Coming Home Cafe is worth going a little out of your way. The food is excellent, the service is friendly and the atmosphere is creative and fun.

Coming Home Café on Urbanspoon


Review: Queens Park Florist

There’s been a decided increase in the number of businesses that are calling the downtown area home, and contrary to (my long held) belief they are not all bridal salons and cheque cashing joints. Businesses like New West Cycle, Renaissance Books, Lofty Living, Urban Gypsy, the Hideout Cafe (tip, follow them on Twitter where they post the daily soup special with regularity) and the newly opened Red Brick (So new, in fact, all I can find is a Craigslist ad) are now populating the area. Cleverminks, a pioneer in the area, has sadly closed – but perhaps they were one of the first to recognize the potential in the neighbourhood before even the shoppers did.

Now, new developments like The Point, Quantum as well as the Plaza 88 development are bringing in a new kind of clientele. Many residents don’t rely on cars as much as those in say, Queensborough or Sapperton and so they look to their immediate neighbourhood to serve their needs.

So when I popped into Queens Park Florist (619 Carnarvon Street) today on the advice of Briana and Will, I was delighted to see not only a contemporary modern feel in their floral arrangements and decor, but also a customer patiently waiting on a custom arrangement.

Briana tells me that Queens Park Florist is her “most favouritest flower shop ever. Seriously.” That’s pretty high praise in my book. I know I can turn out a relatively nice arrangement of tulips (grab five bunches, stuff in a vase, voila) but it takes an eye to really put together something eye catching. Owner Yelena Bahshaliyeva believes the contemporary and modern feel of her business appeals to the residents moving into the downtown area. “We’re doing some different things, things not normally done by an average florist.” She’s right. How fun is this?

Yelena and her staff offer amazing designs: bright, bold, beautiful. Gone are the days with a pink carnation boutonniere with a spray of baby’s breath. Say hello to something different for weddings or prom:


There was a reasonable selection of delicate ferns, orchids, and other potted arrangements on display, and a fresh and happy miniature rose by the door. Like most flower shops, it smells divine in there, and the location is beautiful with sunlight streaming into the windows.

Queens Park Florist is holding an Open House on May 18th from 10am to 6pm (4-6 there will be refreshments) and everyone is invited. They’ll be unveiling their new season’s designs, which includes local plants and flowers – a fact that thrills me. The whole store will be turned into a showroom and I think everyone should go and check them out – including my husband. Hint, hint.

Queens Park Florist is located at 619 Carnarvon. They’re also on Facebook and you should go “like” them to receive updates of coming events. They do flowers for all occasions – corporate events and personal events including weddings and prom – and offer a monthly flower delivery subscription service and online ordering. You can reach them at 604-525-8022 or Check out this info sheet for some of their other upcoming summer promotions.

PS: Mother’s Day is May 8th and QPF delivers. I’m just saying.


Friendly, affordable eats at Couzies on Carnarvon

Couzies on Carnarvon. Photo: Daniel Fortin.

Couzies on Carnarvon. Photo: Daniel Fortin.

I try to eat a heathy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit most mornings. While this is probably what i should be eating, sometimes I crave something a bit more. Since moving to the other side of downtown, I’ve been frequenting Couzies on Carnarvon.

Couzies is a tiny little restaurant sandwiched between two currently vacant warehouse spaces on Carnarvon between 8th and 10th street. The seating indoors is limited but they have a large patio that will be great once the temperature warms up.

For breakfast they have a variety of wraps, eggs benedict and my favorite Couzies breakfast: 2 eggs 4 pieces of bacon, hash browns, toast and tomatoes for $5.99. Aside from breakfast, they have a pretty substantial lunch menu with everything from creative paninis to Coney Island hot dogs.

The atmosphere inside is great as well. It feels very comfortable. I can tell even after only going a few times that this little place has its full cast of regulars, from the construction workers to the old-timers enjoying their coffee. Everyone seems to get along and chime in on the conversation that makes its way around the small seating area of this great little spot.

It’s not modern, it’s not flashy, but the food is good and the people are friendly. If you get hungry in the morning and don’t feel like oatmeal, check it out!

Couzie's on Carnarvon on Urbanspoon


A Girl’s guide to preparing for the Army & Navy Shoe Sale

This year's Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Handout photo.

This year's Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Handout photo.

The Army & Navy Shoe Sale is always a sure sign of spring. It brings back memories of our annual shopping excursions to the New West store when I was a kid. When my sister and I were young, Mom started the tradition of annual shoe shopping, just us girls, wide eyed at the rows upon rows of shoes, so many options it was overwhelming.

We had to learn the best strategies early on. With that many shoppers and that many shoes you can’t just walk in and leisurely browse! So here are a few tips to navigate the sale, from one shoe-shopper to another.

  • You’ve gotta line up. Bring coffee, dress for the weather and get there a bit early. This way you can size up your fellow shoppers and get into the spirit of the sale.
  • Know what you are looking for. Do you need sandals for a summer wedding? Pumps for work? It’s overwhelming when you first get in there, wall to wall people, and way too many shoes to count. Survey what you’ve got before you go and have an idea of what you need/want this season.
  • If you see something you like, grab it! Get your hands on the right size and pick up whatever looks good. You can find a corner later and cull through your finds to make the final decision.
  • Put on each pair and walk around for a while, we all know that we won’t wear them if they hurt no matter how pretty they are.
  • Bring a friend. It’s an extra pair of arms to carry your finds, and extra pair of eyes to bring you back down to earth.

One last thing, be patient and polite. No need to elbow your way through: remember, shoe karma is the best kind!

This year’s Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Army & Navy is also launching a “Shoes in the City” photo contest this week on their Facebook page where you can win VIP passes to the sale.

What are your tips for navigating the annual A&N Shoe Sale?



Bloom Art Studio: messy & inspiring fun for kids

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Note: Bloom Art Studio has offered a special contest for Tenth to the Fraser readers! Comment on this post to before April 21, 2011 and enter to win four free classes at the studio (valued at over $60). Plus, ‘like’ Bloom’s Facebook page for another chance to win!

Bloom Art Studio at River Market is a safe place for kids to get messy – without driving parents crazy.

Owner Kimberly Chiem recently invited me and Jen Arbo to bring our kids down  to experience one of her parent-and-toddler art classes. It was a simple activity I remembered doing when I was in elementary school: first the kids lay down on strips of kraft paper so the parents could trace them, then the parents cut out the silhouettes and taped them to the walls and windows for the kids to paint.

Our kids painted their “shadows” on the windows of the studio. Wesley glopped paint on the floor and all over the chairs. Kale channeled Jackson Pollock and started flinging paint against the window.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Kim. “I’ll clean it all up later.”

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Magic words. At home, I like to craft with the kids, but I’m always a little leery of anything truly messy. It’s fun, but I always worry about the cleanup. In a space like Bloom, the kids are free to play with colour and form in a space that’s designed to handle mess. The washable paint cleans off their little wooden chairs and concrete floor. The wall is intended to be coloured on. And even the windows are fair game.

Wesley had so much fun that I brought him back another day, this time with his baby sister (aged16 months) in tow. That day’s plan involved fruit & vegetable stamping. Kimberly provided a plate with halved strawberries, bok choy, lemons, potatoes, apples and other produce and a selection of colourful paints. Once again the craft was simple (and messy): dip the fruit or veg in the paint and stamp it on paper.

Even my littlest enjoyed this craft, and when my son finished his prints and asked if he could have a brush to paint free-form, Kim was happy to go with the flow. A few little artists joined my son in asking for a brush, while others happily kept dipping & stamping their veggies.

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Bloom Art Studio offers a variety of classes and events for kids, including “mini-camps” over Spring Break March 21-25. You can sign up for a series of lessons or opt for the drop-in rate ($8.57 + tax during the winter session). There are even some activities for grown-ups: a monthly Occasional Knitter’s Group (launching March 25 at 7pm) and a Japanese Hand-Built Pottery Class.