Archive for April, 2014


Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Graduation, Dunbar LifeThe season of graduations is soon upon us. Bright young faces lean together, caps askew, while parents stand beaming nearby. Pomp and ceremony ensues, some fitting, some not. Speeches delivered, processions marched, and tears shed.

School graduations mark the end of one stage, the beginning of another.

At elementary schools now, even the completion of grade 7 brings some form of grad celebration. Though “grade 7 grad” is not really about achievement (I mean, ‘getting grade 7’ was always part of the plan), the occasion does mark the end of a childhood era and the significant passage onto high school. So wearing a pretty dress for the girls and maybe a shirt with buttons for the boys to reminisce over a cute slide show and be applauded at a special school assembly is fitting for the occasion. Beyond that though we run the risk of taking things a bit too far. Limousine rentals to commemorate the lofty achievement of finishing grammar school beg the question what then will suffice in grade 12? Grade 7 parents should skip planning gala affairs and set the kids free for a water-fight at Dunbar or Chaldecott Park or organize a beach gathering for everyone with pizza delivered. The age-old parent tactic of keeping the bar low now will only make high school graduation five years later all the sweeter.

And high school graduation comes soon enough. Throughout grade 12, senior students are constantly reminded “what an exciting year it is” for them, which is true but they can also be overwhelmed by how stressful it is at the same time. The grade 12 school year becomes consumed with keeping up both studies and a social life, completing applications to and meeting deadlines for chosen schools, colleges, or universities, grad activities, possibly wrestling over “gap year” pros and cons, updating resumes, looking for a summer job and of course repeatedly answering the question “so what are you going to do next, like, with the rest of your life?” The panorama looms large before them, as it is meant to at 18 years old, posing both excitement and apprehension.

Female grads alleviate this real stress with the created drama of the search for the ever-elusive perfect grad dress. Nowadays the search is made more painfully public with the posting of grad dress photos on-line, of the shopping and the purchase, on grad Facebook pages. This whole process makes one understand how the toga came to be. The young men have fewer concerns in the clothing regard except for knowing that the cardboard in the collar of a new dress shirt is meant to be removed (true story) and that the tacking stitches holding down the flaps of a new jacket are meant to be snipped (true story). But even the boys have to deal with some perplexing cultural norms along the way, like my son’s friend who asked why on earth his grad date kept reminding him of the colour of her dress. “Like, is that supposed to mean something to me?” he asked with honest curiosity. Enlightened about the persistent old-world expectation that he give her a matching corsage or that maybe his tie might coordinate, he looked as if he’d just been informed about mating rituals of iguanas.

My friend’s husband asked if his graduating daughter and her friends looked pretty, answered with a glazed expression, “I’m not sure. They all looked the same.” Often the dresses do appear too elaborate, faces too made up and hair too stiff. If being noticed is the goal, then plain and natural might capture the most attention. Still, youth is wasted on the young and they all look beautiful and happy on their graduation day.

Actually, the only real risk for the evening is that of the kids’ safety, which schools, parents and most students are very aware of. Many a school administrator and parent breathes a sigh of relief when the morning after grad festivities dawns with everyone safe and sound. What devastation when a tragedy occurs. The “Dry Grad” fun nights planned by many schools may not be as ‘cool’ to some but they offer a huge advantage of, besides not harming oneself in a drunken stupor, providing members of the grad class from all the different cliques, walks of life, and distinct groups one night to celebrate all together, to experience some sharing in the event as a mixed group, somewhat similar to real life itself.

But even the formal graduation ceremony can be fraught with complications of ongoing “grade 12 activities.” One of our grad’s had his specific course registration time for first-year university assigned at exactly 45 minutes before he was meant to process, cap and gown, with his graduating classmates. There he was, frantically entering a series of prepared trial course selection timetables into the on-line registration system not many moments before shaking hands on stage with the school principal, an apt preparation for the real pressures of university life.

University graduation is another thing altogether. The pomp and ceremony is much less important to the student finishing an undergraduate degree. After successfully grinding their way through four years of endless reading, days-long labs, essay writing and rewriting, late-night study sessions, and countless midterm and final exams, the prize is the completion of the degree, not the ceremony. If you ask a university grad about his or her upcoming graduation ceremony date you will get “I think it’s in May” tossed over a backpack-slung shoulder. Our soon-to-be undergraduate graduate saw the offered portrait sitting as a fabulous opportunity to get a portrait of herself, cap and gown, along with the family dog, posed together in front of a very regal fake library backdrop, signifying I’m not sure what. Though excited and satisfied to be done, university grads are less starry-eyed about graduation and what it represents; they are more tempered by the reality of entering the work force, competing for spots and carving a way.

Whatever kind of graduation you find yourself a part of, enjoy the sweet “people part” of it all: the marking of the passage of time, the achievement, the beauty and promise of youth. Give your grad a kiss and a gentle push.

Go Graduates.

Dunbar Theatre

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Coming Soon to the Dunbar Theatre…

Dunbar Theatre, Dunbar LifeIn 1935 there were approximately 26 movie theatres operating in Vancouver, and the Dunbar Theatre was one of them. It is remarkable that ‘the show could go on’ despite the Great Depression, but that is the power of cinema. It offered audiences the opportunity to sit for two hours and enter another world, and that was obviously just what was needed during such an unstable period in history.

It reminds me of Mia Farrow’s character Cecilia in Woody Allen’s masterpiece, The Purple Rose of Cairo. Set in New Jersey in the 1930s, Cecilia, a small town waitress who works at a diner, seeks refuge from her bleak life by escaping to The Jewel theatre to watch glamorous stories unfold on the big screen, and in the process she becomes part of the cinematographic experience.

When movie theatres sprang onto the scene it was a special event to go out to watch a film. People dressed up for the occasion to watch the latest magic coming out of Hollywood studios. The transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’ had taken place only ten years earlier. This was an amazing and captivating new technology.

Today the Dunbar is the only remaining cinema in the city from this era showing films. While this is a sad fact, it is also reason to celebrate this enduring community anchor, which continues to delight moviegoers.

To pay homage to the Dunbar’s longevity a special event has been organized on Thursday May 1 (7:00 p.m.) with a screening of Casablanca, one of the best loved films of all time. Released in 1943, when the Dunbar was in its infancy, this Hollywood classic is a fitting choice for the occasion. Starring Humphrey Bogart in his first romantic leading role, and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca won three Academy Awards that year, including Best Picture.

This is a night to revisit the glamour of old Hollywood. Come dressed as a screen star from the golden age of cinema. From the glamorous and debonair, think Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Clark Gable, to the outrageous, Groucho Marx, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, let your imagination run wild. Or outfit yourself as your favourite movie character. Perhaps you would like to unleash your inner Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Dorothy/Wizard of Oz, Lawrence of Arabia, or Cleopatra? This is your chance to shine, and possibly win a door prize for best costume too!

An entertaining musical live preshow filled with song, dance and comedy awaits featuring performers Susan Skemp, Phil Moriarity, and Brent Chapman.

Dunbar Theatre 1937, Dunbar LifeSkemp is one of the key organizers of this special evening at the Dunbar Theatre. She feels that she was born in the wrong era, and would give anything to go back to the day of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. She has worked closely with Dunbar Theatre owner Ken Charko, to create this event, and focus the spotlight on this neighbourhood icon. It is indeed something to celebrate in this age of Netflix and mega theatres.

Families are welcome to attend this celebration, and with ticket prices set at $5 for children and $8 for adults; it is an extremely affordable night out on the town.

To the Dunbar Theatre… “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Keep playing films that make us swoon, cheer, laugh, cry, bite our nails, and thrill us as we sit in the dark, surrounded by the energy of others, as we absorb the magic of film, while munching on the best popcorn in town.

Dunbar Theatre
4555 Dunbar St
Vancouver BC V6S 2G7
Telephone 604-222-2991

Harmonious Music Studio

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Music Education Made Fun

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeMelisa Chui believes in making music a healthy habit for children. She says, “Music and piano should be fun. Music is meant to be enjoyed and shared and not be a chore.”

Originally from Hong Kong, she moved to Vancouver at the beginning of high school. After graduating from Prince of Wales Secondary School Chui attended U.B.C. where she earned a degree in Statistics.

Subsequently, she attained an Early Childhood Education degree and spent some time spent working at preschools. She ventured into business when she discovered the Music for Young Children (MYC) program and realized that she could merge her two interests, music and teaching.

Frances and Gunars Baldois founded MYC in 1980 with the goal to create a quality music education program for young children. From its Dartmouth, Nova Scotia roots, the MYC program expanded across Canada to the United States, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia and now boasts 24,000 students and 900 teachers licensed to teach MYC’s curriculum.

Designed for parents who wish to introduce piano to their young children, MYC provides a comprehensive music program that integrates keyboard, singing, ear training, sight reading, creative movement, rhythm, music theory and music composition. Accompanied by their parents, children between the ages of 3 through 11 acquire solid music education in a fun group-based environment that enhances parent/child involvement.

The MYC program combines early childhood education principles with music theory within a rigorous curriculum that is recognized by the Chief Examiner Emeritus of the Royal Conservatory of Music as a superior introduction to music.

In addition to being fun, MYC classes offer young people a wonderful chance to build their confidence at an early age. Parents will be delighted to learn that children who take piano lessons are able to learn complex math problems earlier than those who have had no musical training.

In September 2011 after receiving MYC training and licensing Chui opened her Dunbar Street studio. As the owner and sole instructor of Harmonious Music Studio, she offers two types of learning experiences for budding piano players, the MYC program which is taught in a group setting, as well as private piano lessons.

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeWhen you enter Harmonious Music Studio you will notice the grand piano, which Chui instructs from, and five keyboards for her students use. Empty space in the centre of the room is set aside for the movement component of the lesson, as well as a space to sit and hear stories about composers such as Beethoven. A number of chairs line the wall where parents watch their children, that is, when they aren’t actively involved. All group lessons involve parent participation to learn and experience alongside your child. The one-hour lessons can accommodate between 3 to 6 students.

Half hour private lessons are also available for children ages 6 and up. Parents attend these lessons until their children are old enough to stay on their own. It’s never too late to learn the piano. If you are an adult who is interested in tickling the ivories, Chui will happily instruct you. In fact, she has had a few of her student’s parents sign up.

Two recitals are held each year to give students a chance to perform. One is held at Harmonious Music Studio and the other takes place at St. Helen’s Anglican Church. All ages participate on an individual basis and as a group. Chui is always impressed by her students’ self-assurance, which they gain from performing in a group at the studio.

Chui began piano lessons at age 6 and worked her way up to Grade 10 level. She is grateful that her parents encouraged her and today her hobbies revolve around music, from playing the piano, to dabbling with the violin and guitar. She appreciates all types of music (classical, pop, jazz) and likes to attend concerts.

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeShe feels the Dunbar area is the perfect community to have established her business. Chui indicates that most of her clients come from the neighbourhood, which she finds very family oriented.

When she takes a break from teaching, Chui enjoys travelling with her husband. Some of their top cosmopolitan destinations include London, Paris, New York, and her personal favourite city, Tokyo, as she adores Japanese food and culture.

Chui feels fortunate to have found her calling. She says, “I am glad to share my love of music with young children in a fun and nurturing environment.”

Harmonious Music Studio
3271 Dunbar St
Vancouver BC V6S 2B8
Telephone 604-767-0136

Three Ways to Get Rid of Moss

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Moss on the pathways
As the gardening season gets under way in Vancouver, after a high rainfall winter with several snowfalls, it’s noticeably slippery on sidewalks, driveways and decks. Professional pressure washing is a service that’s usually done in one day or less for a typical residential lot in Vancouver. The real bonus of driveway cleaning and sidewalk cleaning is the knowledge that your property is no longer a liability to you. Slippery surfaces can easily lead to falling accidents. Pressure washing is the fastest, easiest and most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of moss and mildew on sidewalks and patios.

Moss in the lawn
An application of moss killer in early spring will help reduce moss in the lawn and make room for grass to grow. If you want a lush, green lawn, then it is necessary to remove competing moss from turf areas. Changing the pH level of the soil your lawn grows in helps to eliminate moss. Adding lime reduces the acidity of your soil. Choose rapid lime or dolomite lime for fastest results.

Moss in the garden
Remove patches of moss by lifting out the entire patch using a trowel. Moss propagates quickly when it is chopped up into small pieces and spread about. So don’t be tempted to cultivate it into the soil and rake it around. When moss is growing in the garden beds, it is a sign that the pH level of the soil is on the acidic side. Use moss as an indicator to let you know when you need to add lime, composted bark mulch or composted manure to your garden or lawn. Added lime and nutrients neutralize the soil’s pH level, creating a more hospitable growing environment for plants, not moss.

Jessica Salvador is a Certified Landscape Horticulturist. She runs Higher Ground Gardens with her husband Christian, a Certified Landscape Technician.

Higher Ground Gardens


Higher Ground 1

Southlands Insurance Brokers

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Where Personal Service Comes First

Southlands Insurance, Dunbar LifeJon Little and Bill Wallace enjoy helping people. As co-owners of Southlands Insurance Brokers, they are committed to providing their clients with the personal service they deserve.

The motto from Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café CBC Radio program comes to mind, “We may not be big but we’re small!” After talking to Little it seems their company philosophy is cut from a similar cloth. He says, “We are right where we want to be. We are not seeking to expand or become a big business.” Their mission is to remain small and continue to offer insurance services to people in this neighbourhood.

That is not to say that they do not have customers from further afield. Indeed people have stayed loyal to their favourite insurance brokers long after they move from the Dunbar area; in fact one of their customers lives in Haida Gwaii.

The business partners have deep roots in the community as they grew up and attended school in Dunbar, and have worked here for many years (Wallace is in his 26th year at the insurance agency). Southlands Insurance likes to give back by sponsoring local schools, sports teams and events.

Most of the time it is a two-man show with Jon Little and Bill Wallace running the office without the aid of an administrative assistant. Ken Campbell also works at the office part time. You may recognize Campbell’s name from his previous business, Mardon Campbell Insurance. Campbell was formerly the sole owner of Southlands Insurance until Bill Wallace and Phill Little (Jon Little’s father) bought the business in 1992. Jon Little came on board in 1998.

Today Jon Little and Bill Wallace are the face of the company. They answer the phone when you call. When you need to renew your insurance they are on the front line and at your service.

They do it all, by choice.

When the time comes to renew or make a claim, they have first hand knowledge of your insurance package. This is what makes the business unique. Clients receive personal service from owners who truly care versus dealing with an operator at a call centre who does not know you. Little points out buying insurance from Southlands Insurance cuts through the red tape. Clients reach the correct person immediately.

The busy brokers handle a wide variety of policies including car, house, travel, contractor, business, recreational and rental insurance.

Southlands Insurance, Dunbar LifeThey have some dedicated clients who have conducted business with them for as long as Little can remember. He finds it very flattering to see generations of a family come through their office. He says young adults often turn to their parents for advice about important decisions like insurance, and he appreciates their loyalty.

Little says insurance is something that needs to be reassessed whenever you make a major life change. This is the time to ask ‘How is this going to affect my insurance?’ Some examples of situations that will alter your policy include a new driver in your household, starting a business, acquiring something of value (for example art work or jewellery), moving to a new home, or undergoing a renovation. He reiterates that you need to let your broker know whenever anything significant occurs so they can modify your coverage. He says there is too much at stake to not make alterations to your policy. He points out that modifications will usually result in a nominal rate change.

Most problems arise when people do not read contracts. For example, no company will pay for damages caused by water that comes in through a cracked foundation. Spend the time reading your contract to educate yourself and avoid unpleasant surprises. If you don’t understand the contract, ask your broker. Take the time to understand what you are buying. Insurance brokers are there to answer your questions and allow you to feel secure in your decisions.

It is reassuring to know that help is close by to help protect your assets and assist you if you need to make a claim. Southlands Insurance has an old-fashioned feeling with its attentive service. Jon Little and Bill Wallace would have it no other way.

Southlands Insurance Brokers
5540 Dunbar St
Vancouver BC V6N 1W6
Telephone 604-266-5433