Archive for April, 2013

La Notte Ristorante: Dunbar’s West Side Gem

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

After our fair share of grey skies and rain this past winter, you may be fantasizing about packing your suitcase and heading to a warmer climate. In my dream I am vacationing at a Tuscan villa, sitting in the sunshine on a patio overlooking vineyards, sipping a full-bodied Chianti, and dining on home cooked Italian cuisine lovingly prepared by a local chef.

Despair not. While this dream is not attainable for all of us, Dunbar’s La Notte Ristorante Italiano is yours to enjoy year round, and comes complete with a Tuscan atmosphere.  La Notte is known for its wide variety of pasta entrees and their ever-popular Osso Buco (offered every Friday night), as well as the perennial favourite Tortellini di Notte. Marina Sedlic says, “The Insalata Alla Cesare (Caesar salad) has a cult following, people travel across the city for it.”

Pesto, pizza, sauces, bread and virtually everything else served at the restaurant is made in house. They use the highest quality and freshest ingredients available and source out local options wherever possible. Sedlic says, “Nothing cures a bad day like a plate of the ladies’ cooking…it is quintessential comfort food.” La Notte has been keeping its patrons well nourished since 1988.

Sedlic is one of the three owners of La Notte in addition to her mother, Ana Jukcic, and her aunt Angie Jozic. Her mother’s best friend, Ana Bezjak, is affectionately known to customers as “Miss Piggy”, and has been a chef with the restaurant since it opened.

Ana Jukcic, also known as “Chef Mama” develops the recipes. Sedlic’s father steps in for maintenance duties. They are a very close team at La Notte, and if you haven’t already gathered, it is a fun atmosphere, lacking in pretence, where customers feel like they are part of the family.

Sedlic is charming and vivacious. Her first job as a preteen was preparing salads and other dishes at La Notte. She would also sing at the restaurant when the original  baby grand piano was on site. Today she oversees the front end of the business while her mother and aunt cook in the kitchen with Miss Piggy.  While the family has a very long history with the restaurant, it was 2011 when they purchased the business from the previous owner.

The menu is always evolving and Sedlic is pleased to report that La Notte has received Ocean Wise certification. This means the restaurant has been recognized for their commitment to serve sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood. The kitchen is happy to accommodate special diets and allergies, with gluten-free options available.

While La Notte is intimate enough for a cozy table for two with candlelight, it is also equally welcoming to family gatherings. If you happen to visit on a Friday or Saturday night you can enjoy the added bonus of live music.

Their customer loyalty is noteworthy. Sedlic reports that some patrons have moved to other locations including Whistler and Kelowna yet return to La Notte when they are in town. Their tremendously supportive local customers come from across Vancouver.

Sedlic is enthusiastically smitten with the Dunbar area. She finds the community to be very involved, where both residents and business owners take an interest in their neighbourhood, and notes, “Dunbar cares.” This translates into the care that goes into small touches such as the flowers in people’s gardens, the personal approach that merchants take when serving their customers, and the active role that the Dunbar Village Business Association has taken in uniting the community through special events and encouraging people to support their local shops and services.

When asked why Sedlic and her family are so passionate about Italian food she says,  “Ultimately it is the ‘experience’ as much as the food. These days we are so connected with cell phones and email and social media but I believe that as a culture we are growing increasingly disconnected. Everyone is always in a rush, but it’s impossible to rush through a plate of spaghetti.” She concludes, “Friends and families sit down at our tables, break bread together and linger over rustic home cooked meals and reconnect. It is like a small celebration of sorts that is very beautiful in its simplicity.”

While I continue to dream of jetting off to Tuscany, I will be booking a table at La Notte for a little taste of Italy, close to home.
3307 Dunbar Street

Keeping Your Gardens Clean & Green

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Six Best Lawn Improvement Practices:

1. Aeration and De-thatching: Early Spring
Lawn compaction impedes air, water and nutrient access to turf roots. Lawn aeration reduces soil compaction by punching holes in the soil with a coring machine. Thatch is a build-up of debris in the area between the soil surface and the blades of grass. De-thatching rakes up the top layer of unwanted thatch in the lawn.
2. Liming: Spring (When Rainfall Decreases)
Lime is used on lawns to get a desirable pH, (6.0 – 7.0). Lime conditions the soil and will improve the growth of turf by reducing nutrient loss.
3. Moss Control: Spring
Great success is achieved using lawn sand for moss control. Expect to see moss turn black and die almost immediately.
4. Regular Fertilizing Program: Spring
(When The Weather Warms Up)
Fertilizers provide nutrients for healthy colour, root and foliage growth. A fertilizer high in Phosphorus is used in spring to help turf establish strong roots. Nitrogen is used once it warms up to make grass grow lush green blades. Potassium is used in fall to help withstand stress, disease and winter temperatures. A fertilized lawn is stronger and better, by being more resistant to weeds and disease.
5. Proper Mowing Practices:
Properly mowed lawns are more tolerant of heat and drought. Only 1/3 of the grass height should be removed at one time. Healthy lawns are kept at a height of 2” – 3”. If cut too short, part of the root system can die back, causing weeds to overtake the lawn.
6. Top Dressing and Over-seeding:
Spring or Early Fall
Lawns that lack a basic level of nutrients are best served by a top dressing of nutrient-rich organic matter. For lawns that require new growth it is ideal to over-seed with the correct grass seed mix. The three best types for Vancouver are Perennial Ryegrass, Fescues and Kentucky Bluegrass. The ideal lawn has a combination of all 3 types. Shady lawns perform better with a higher percentage of Fine Fescue in the seed blend.
Jessica Salvador is a Certified Landscape Horticulturist. Higher Ground Gardens is a family-run business she owns with her husband Christian Kessner, a certified landscape technician.  Higher Ground Gardens, 778-323-1502.

The Best Way to Learn and Play

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Families in the neighbourhood have plenty of choice when it comes to finding a preschool. Dunbar Village has four parent participation preschools offering programs for toddlers and preschoolers. Most of these schools have educated children, brought families together, and built community for at least 50 years, with Tom Thumb Preschool nearing its 70th anniversary.

Parent participation preschools share a common philosophy: young children learn through play. In fact, according to authorities across North America and Europe, play-based learning is the best educational approach for young children. Scientific studies show that children develop exploration, imagination, problem-solving, logic, and language skills through play. These children also go on to have greater social, emotional, and academic success. Parents concerned about “kindergarten readiness” can be assured that their children will have the necessary skills to navigate full-day kindergarten.

Each preschool has its own special character and community. At Crown Preschool, holidays offer valuable opportunities. Every October, children and their dads (or grandpas) create memories together by carving pumpkins, singing songs, and reading stories. The program incorporates cooking, from apple crumbles and potato latkes to “Stone Soup.” After reading the classic story about creating soup out of nothing, each child brings a vegetable and the class makes and eats soup.

At Little People Preschool, every day brings new questions and discoveries. The flexible child-centred approach creates countless teachable moments. The children learn through doing and discovering. One day it might be making pasta, another day could find the class working with wood or on a field trip.

Along with open play and a brand-new playground, Tom Thumb Preschool uses an emergent curriculum guided by the children’s interests. Children are free to explore their interests through in-depth projects, which have included anything from gardening and flowers to puppets and trains.

Dunbar Memorial Preschool offers a large open-concept space incorporating a reading corner, science table, dress-up, and other preschool favourites. From lively circle-time discussions to music and movement, the emphasis is on children learning to express themselves.

One common question concerns the parent participation component. Parents work together with teachers to create positive, supportive, and enriched educational environments for children. In practical terms, this means helping in the classroom once a month. It’s a precious opportunity to see your child learning and interacting at school. The higher adult-child ratio also provides enhanced learning opportunities, enabling programs like science, cooking, clay art, and field trips.

In parent participation preschools, the whole family is involved and supported. While children learn social skills, their parents develop lasting relationships and families build community. Parents also enrich their skills through parent education topics such as first aid, building self-esteem in children, anger management, child development, and much more. As the mother of two preschool alumni, Kyle comments, “My children got to build relationships with other children and families. Little did I know that I would also learn so much from the preschool and being involved. The parent education proved valuable, teaching me important lessons about my own children and my parenting style.” Her experiences also taught her how small businesses operate and how non-profit organizations stay viable and successful.

Increasingly, parent participation is considered a key component of education. The BC Ministry of Education states “Teachers and parents are considered partners in the child’s education. They consult and collaborate to create for the child a climate of respect, success, and joy necessary for lifelong learning.” Preschool is the first school environment and lays the foundation for a positive educational experience. Kyle says, “Families that join parent participation preschools are committed to making their child’s experience at preschool the best it can be.” Preschool is also a great place for parents to learn techniques for supporting their children’s learning. John, a dad of two, remarks, “It’s community building in the sense that you’re not only involved in your kid’s education but also in the system that educates your child.”

Building relationships and growing community are integral parts of the parent participation approach. It might involve supporting another family, such as when a new baby arrives or an emergency arises. It could be cooperating through fundraising. Or helping an outside cause, like the group of parents from Tom Thumb Preschool who support the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Family Dinner program. Together they plan, prepare, and serve a meal to the children and families in residence. This simple act is a powerful way to support families under stress.






The parent participation approach clearly resonates for many families. These preschools have been part of the Dunbar community for decades, leaving a lasting legacy. Some parents attended these preschools themselves. Children graduate and go on to attend local schools, with their parents becoming involved as volunteers in school PACs, local sports organizations, Guiding and Scouting, and many other community groups.

by Hilary Feldman

Alta Vista Animal Hospital

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Veterinarian.

If your dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, guinea pig or pet rat is in need of medical attention, you want to entrust your furry friend to a clinic that is dedicated to providing both quality and caring veterinary medicine. Dr. Parveen Munjal is deeply aware that Dunbar pet owners love their animals very much, as does he and his staff. The clinic has a reputation for being friendly, reliable and is always available for its clients.

Dr. Munjal has been the full time veterinarian/owner of Alta Vista Animal Hospital since 2008. He attributes the success of his business to the neighbourhood. Many customers, who the clinic considers friends, live in the area and drop in to say hello to Dr. Munjal and his staff. They also like to bring in their new pets for introductions, and their dogs are always happy to pop in for a cookie pit stop.

An animal hospital is not complete without a couple of cat greeters. Dr. Munjal describes Jaguar, one of the clinic cats, as an old grumpy man.  Recently the clinic took on a young cat called Sherlock. Dr. Munjal says, “Sherlock is extremely curious, gets into a lot of trouble and annoys Jaguar every day; yet everyone who comes into the clinic is won over by Sherlock’s sweet nature and funny ways.”

Alta Vista Animal Hospital offer very personal service as Dr. Munjal is familiar with all of the cases, and he enjoys taking the extra time and interest in his patients. While Dr. Munjal is the primary veterinarian, he has the assistance of locum doctors Dr. Abass and Dr. Aulakh, surgical specialist Dr. Kahlon, and ultrasonographer Dr. Casey. There are also ten veterinary assistants who help him during the week working on alternate shifts. Far from his homeland, Dr. Munjal is originally from Malout, a small city in the Indian state of Punjab. He studied at Punjab Agricultural University followed by further education at Oklahoma State University. He worked as a veterinarian in India for ten years and moved to North America in 2004.

His first veterinary posting in Vancouver was at the Killarney Animal Hospital where he worked alongside Dr. Mangat, a former classmate in India. Dr. Mangat encouraged Dr. Munjal to relocate to Vancouver, a sentiment that was echoed by friends in other parts of the country who told him great things about Canada.

Dr. Munjal’s days are busy, and include everything from taking appointments to dispensing medicine, diagnosing medical problems, providing advice, performing surgeries, giving aftercare, administering medications and making house calls.
The clinic works closely with the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association and the Action for Animals in Distress Society. As big supporters of Alta Vista Animal Hospital, they suggest bringing your newly adopted kitten or cat to Dr. Munjal’s practice for treatments.

Alta Vista Animal Hospital carries a wide range of flea products and parasite control, as well as prescription and maintenance foods for cats and dogs. Basic grooming services such as bathing, ear cleaning, nail trimming, brushing and lion cuts in cats are available to keep Fluffy or Fido looking her best. If you are going away on vacation, Alta Vista offers day boarding and long term boarding for dogs and cats at very reasonable rates.

In addition, the clinic has an in-house vet pharmacy and performs many laboratory procedures on the premises for your convenience. Open for appointments and emergencies seven days a week, the worry of getting your pet to the vet is eased considerably.

When asked about clinic stories with happy endings Dr. Munjal says, “One example was when a cat came in with kidney failure and was old and uncooperative. When we explained the management of kidney failure to the owners they wanted to euthanize it.  We kept the cat in the clinic to stabilize her, and one of the staff volunteered to foster her. The cat is still alive today, two years after she was given the death sentence.”

Dr. Munjal lives in East Vancouver with his “beautiful wife” Seema, his daughter Vrinda and his son Vazul. He truly appreciates the friendly, family oriented Dunbar neighbourhood, which he finds to be very close knit. With lovely restaurants, the Dunbar Theatre, Stong’s Market, the library and community centre, it is a self-contained village.

In 2003 when Dr. Munjal was living in India he was awarded the distinction of being the best doctor in the district. With cards, gifts, friendly messages and compliments frequently directed to Alta Vista Animal Hospital, it is apparent that his Dunbar customers are as fond of Dr. Munjal as he is of this community. It is a symbiotic relationship of the best kind.

Alta Vista Animal Hospital, 4543 Dunbar Street, Vancouver BC V6S 2G7

Dunbar Little League

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

The crack of the bat, the smell of the leather glove and the welcoming sun on your face. Baseball season is here again.

I have fond memories of playing for Dunbar Little League (DLL) as a child where I spent many hours at the park with family and friends. We ate Dickie Dee Ice Cream, dads coached, and I played right field frequently. Not much has changed since then but those memories never prepared me for my experience as a DLL parent.

This, my friend, is a whole new ball game.To most, Dunbar Little League represents community, friendships, sportsmanship and a rite of childhood passage. DLL is all those things and more to the parents and the players.

The journey usually starts with Blastball, a lighthearted introduction to the game where players have a blast and parents are just happy to be out of the house.

Then you work your way up to T-Ball and things start to make sense, players are eager, and parents are happy to see the baseball “light” of inspiration click on.

Next is the big leap into Minor B, where it is all about the pitching machine and the shock of players when they actually can strike out. Up to this point, three strikes and you’re out was just a dark rumour whispered in the dug out.

Minor A is the ultimate separation of fact from fiction. There is a pitcher on the mound and he or she is actually trying to strike you out. The kids at bat are making contact and the fielders are making plays. It is amazing to watch the transformation. Players develop, parents become more invested and before you know it, we are playing the game of baseball.

DLL’s Majors division is all of those great things and more. Not only do you get to sit back and enjoy the exciting ‘after school special’ entertainment, you become part of the whole production.

As with most children’s organized sports, parent volunteers are essential, but no one can prepare a parent for his or her first day working a concession shift. The math alone is terrifying. But nothing says bonding like burgers grilled for the love of the game and the kids playing it.

Dunbar Little League means many things to many people. Here are my Top 10 highlights and observations:

  • It is a true neighbourhood game. The catchment is so small that kids often play against their neighbours, classmates, friends, and sometimes even against their own brother or sister.
  • The season is short but intense.
  • Games played at the same location means not having to drive all over the Lower Mainland.
  • The promise of sunshine and the relief of rain cancellations.
  • Concession – feeding a family of five for only $25, trying the Umpire Burger and liking it, 50-cent candy bags buy you an hour of peace, eating more hot dogs and hamburgers in an eight week span than you normally do in a whole year.
  • Working at the concession – grill masters who bring their own aprons, parents having a hard time with math, cooking more for the community in a couple of hours than you can for your own family during the season. Getting to know the parents on your team and enjoying a good laugh.
  • A Majors scorekeeping rookie mistake, forgetting to change the scoreboard or worse, not keeping proper pitch count.
  • Dunbar stadium seating discussions with fellow parents include dreams of custom seat cushions and heated wind protection.
  • Siblings being dragged to their brother or sister’s game only to realize they are having a 2-3 hour playdate with the neighbourhood kids. Throw in a hot dog and a candy bag or two for dinner, and this becomes the highlight of their week!
  • Later bed times and homework gone by the wayside in exchange for less screen time and great sleeps. Note: pace your candy bag accordingly.

Dunbar Little League is a treasured neighbourhood institution that has stood the test of time. This positive imprint in our neighbourhood would not be possible if it wasn’t for the dedication of our DLL families, volunteers, sponsors and support from our community.

Hope to see you at the diamond!

by Nicole Wong Koroluk

Dunbar Little League is one of the first leagues in Canada and started in 1958. The league is known and respected throughout Canada for its spirit of fair play and offering boys and girls, regardless of their level of skill, the opportunity to play baseball, learn some skills and have fun. Most of the league’s games are played at Memorial Park located at Dunbar Street and West 33rd Avenue, however Minor B games are played at Balaclava Park.