Archive for June, 2015

Life Lessons From a Horse

Monday, June 15th, 2015

web_Ailsa_Hemming_Dunbar_LifeIt turns out winning a prize at a country fair can change your life.

Ailsa Hemming (15) won a gift certificate for a pair of riding boots and helmet at the Southlands Country Fair when she was seven years old. Once she had the equipment her parents and grandmother decided a couple of riding lessons were in order, and so began Hemming’s adoration of horses.

Highlander is the name of her majestic 11-year-old Palomino horse that lives at Southlands Heritage Farm. Her family free leases Highlander, which means although they do not own him, they pay for his boarding and food, they are in charge of the day to day decisions, and first and foremost, Hemming cares for him.

Hemming is devoted to Highlander. Every day after school and on weekends she visits the barn and mucks out his stall and feeds him.
She says, “Both of these jobs help cut back the cost of boarding him at the farm.” She also rides Highlander six days a week. “If I am unable for some reason to muck him out, feed and ride him, then it is my responsibility to find someone to cover me.”

Oh, if Highlander could talk, the stories he would tell. He led a chequered past before meeting Hemming. She reports, “Highlander was born wild in a herd looked over by hippies. He then somehow wound up in a drug addict’s basement and backyard along with another horse.”

That is when his current owner found him and bought both horses. Highlander lived in Southlands for a while. When the owner moved to Europe the horse moved to California for a couple of years. In March 2014 he returned to Southlands.

It was at this time Hemming was looking for a new horse to lease. Her coach, Hilary Leach, alerted her that she knew of the right match. Hemming ended up leasing Highlander twice a week until last September when she took him on full time. In addition, she works at the barn all summer unless she is away at a horse show.

Hemming describes Highlander’s personality as being stubborn and pushy. “We’ve been working really hard on teaching him about personal space. He’s broken my glasses by flinging his head in my face. However, for all his faults, he is incredibly sweet and loves his job.”

She goes on to say, “He can be super strong when you’re riding and jumping him, but he can tell if he has an inexperienced rider on him, and he is super calm and reliable then.” He also does some therapeutic riding lessons at the Southlands Therapeutic Riding Society (STaRS) during the day when Hemming is at school. She adds, “He’s perfect for this as he is so dependable on the roads and rarely spooks.”

In addition to the time she spends caring for Highlander, Hemming helps with birthday parties, camps and lessons at Southlands Heritage Farm. She also takes lessons there. She says, “It’s a really great atmosphere and all of the barn staff really go out of their way to make sure your horse is well cared for.”

web_Ailsa_Hemming_horse_Dunbar_LifeOver time Hemming’s riding involvement has increased. Highlander shows in the “jumpers,” which is judged on the speed of getting around a course without knocking down the jumps. She says, “Highlander absolutely loves it and is quite the little speed demon.” They compete at local show grounds including Maple Ridge Equi-Sport Centre and Thunderbird Show Park, as well as at Southlands Riding Club shows.

Her family has been incredibly supportive of Hemming’s passion. Two years ago her father became the district commissioner of the Vancouver Pony Club, and her mother runs the stable management section of the club. She mentions, “Since I got Highlander my mum has ridden him a couple of times in lessons and on a trail ride. My grandmother in New York is an enthusiastic supporter too.”

Riding has moved to the top of Hemming’s interest list. She confesses that dance and piano lessons moved to the sidelines when riding became more serious.

Last Thanksgiving Highlander became ill, only one month after their partnership commenced. Hemming describes the sit-uation as being very serious. “He wasn’t eating anything and would lie down and refuse to get up, and he had a fever.” Except for a quick dash home to eat Thanksgiving dinner she spent the entire weekend at the barn. The vet was called and with the help of antibiotics Highlander was soon well again.

The experience proved to be a crash course in “owning” a horse. It also demonstrated Hemming’s maturity, devotion and responsibility for Highlander who was finally receiving the love and care he had missed in his early years.

She concludes, “I definitely think that having Highlander has changed me. It has taught me what it is like to be completely responsible for something other than myself.”

Preventum Personalized Health Care

Monday, June 15th, 2015

One Unique Patient at a Time

web_preventum_clinic_dr_farahani_dunbarlifeDr. Ali Farahani is a general practitioner who understands the frustration of waiting to get an appointment to see a family physician and rushed visits once you are in the office. Quick access to your doctor is imperative rather than having to make an often unnecessary trip to a hospital emergency room.

Preventum opened its doors in September 2014. First and foremost, it is a private family practice clinic to turn to for your regular healthcare needs.

Dr. Farahani says, “We focus on complete healthcare which is not just about access and time with the physician but input and support from all the associated healthcare professionals to give us a complete picture of one’s health.”

He thought people would be interested in this concept, and indeed they are. In less than a year Preventum has already reached a patient base of 100 families. Dr. Farahani’s maximum intake will be 150 families as a number any higher defeats the personalized approach, and would not allow him to guarantee same day appointments. A small clientele allows him to do the things he really enjoys such as making house calls and spending ample time with each patient.

The clinic sees a fair number of young Westside families, children, young professionals and seniors. What makes Preventum unique is it is a private clinic with some public access for non-members. If an urgent matter arises and you are not able to see your own doctor in time Preventum will attempt to see you within 24 hours.

Dr. Farahani’s approach to medicine is a melding of the past, when home visits and easy access to your doctor were more common, and the future, through extensive examinations to ensure no stone is left unturned.

“Offering patients kindness because I care about them” is of utmost importance to Dr. Farahani. He wants to improve the quality of the outcome by not missing things. One way to do this is by building an excellent relationship with him and his staff.

web_preventum_clinic_patient_dunbarlifeWhen faced with a health challenge, providing an accessible and knowledge-able team that can promptly diagnose, treat, advocate and access the best resources possible is pertinent to maintenance of health and stopping the progression of disease early while the probability for a cure remains the highest.

With this in mind, Preventum offers a comprehensive head to toe five hour annual checkup that includes gathering your medical history, learning about your behaviours, risks and goals, identifying any early symptoms of illness, and supplementing this with a complete physical exam and advanced screening and diagnostic tools.

During the five-hour exam you will receive a nutritional assessment, functional evaluation, annual blood work, EKG and a cardiac stress test.

This comprehensive exam provides an insight into your state of health and allows the Preventum team to work with you to implement proactive and preventive treatments. By understanding your body and spending time to get to know you, and by learning about your risks and behaviours Dr. Farahani and his wellness team are able to diagnose and treat illness promptly and to limit the possibility of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

web_preventum_clinic_lobby_dunbarlifeIn addition to personal care packages a number of other specialized services are available including a comprehensive cancer screen. Using a series of advanced medical imaging, MRI, and ultrasound combined with blood, urine, and stool biomarkers supplemented by a physical examination, these tests detect the majority of cancers at an early stage where several options for curative treatments exists. If cancer is detected, Preventum provides rapid access to surgical and medical treatment around the world. This is expected to translate into improved survival.

Dr. Farahani’s team of healthcare profession-als includes Dr. Raj Attariwala (AIM Medical Imaging), Marlene Burrows (nurse prac-titioner), Susan Deslippe (physiotherapist), Natalie Goodfellow (kinesiologist), Dr. Hilary Kitson (pediatrician), Kristine Nordahl (clinical counsellor), Kathy Poropat (client care and operations manager) and Kelly Spec (Spectrum Nutrition). In addition, there is an advisory team comprised of an allergist, cardiologist, internist, psychiatrist, and respirologist.

Dr. Farahani says, “We are always looking for ways to educate the community about prevention – through flu clinics, dietitian in school programs, and even yoga classes.”

A modern building in a central location with plenty of natural light was at the top of his wish list when looking for a space for Preventum. The beautiful waiting area is pristine with its white walls, high ceilings and tasteful choice of furnishing.

web_preventum_clinic_staff_dunbarlifeDr. Farahani is pleased to report that the business is expanding into a space next door. This will allow the Preventum team to focus on primary and secondary prevention, namely, how to stop the progression of illness, and how to detect it earlier. They will also assess heart function, brain function, and rank risk based on age, gender and lifestyle changes.

The four colours in the company’s logo are the colours of DNA and this is an area of great interest. He would like to start looking at people’s DNA to predict what will happen in the future.

Dr. Farahani points out people have to do their part and choose to live responsibly by not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. He concludes, “Prevention has to begin with the situation you have right now.”

If you would like to learn more call Preventum to set up a meet and greet with the clinic.

Preventum Personalized Health Care
3210 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2B7
Telephone 604-731-9866

Elite Montessori Academy

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Phoenix_Niazi_Elite_Montessori_Dunbar_LifeTeach Me to Do Things By Myself

Are you the parent of a preschool aged child (2.5 to 6 years old) in search of a unique learning environment for your little one? If so, Elite Montessori Academy may just fit the bill.

Owner and teacher Phoenix Niazi opened Elite Montessori Academy (located on the corner of Dunbar Street and West 39th Avenue) in 2013. She holds a number of impressive credentials including a Bachelor of Science degree, a diploma from Association Montessori Internationale and certification as an Early Childhood Educator.

Originally from Taiwan, Niazi operated a very successful childcare and after school program in Taipei for five years. After earning her Montessori and ECE certification her husband and son encouraged her to open her own business. They wanted her to fulfill her dream and operate a childcare facility that would provide a nurturing environment and multi-sensorial curriculum to help young children develop their potential to the fullest.

She believes, “Children are like tiny plants, they will grow to their maximum potential.” With this philosophy in mind, her son selected the company logo, a house sprouting a leaf.

If you are not familiar with the Montessori program, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician, founded it in 1907. She observed children’s innate drive towards learning and was amazed by their sustained concentration while undertaking activities. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed an environment where children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.

A fair amount of emphasis is placed on individual work. Niazi explains, “We are trying to preserve concentration.” Parents will likely breathe a collective sigh of relief as a recent Microsoft study concluded human’s concentration (due to society’s growing obsession with electronic gadgets) is now lower than a goldfish. Cultivating and encouraging concentration has never been more important.

Children are encouraged to choose an activity and repeat it as many times as they like. She points out, “Children learn through trial and error.” Applying this approach, children are not corrected for doing something “incorrectly” as it makes them feel they have erred. Allowing them to persevere provides them with the drive to keep trying.

Parents will rejoice to see the results of this encouraging teaching method. With a program designed to foster independence after attending Elite Montessori your child will be empowered to tackle tasks such as pouring their own water, preparing a snack, slicing a strawberry with a plastic knife, cutting with scissors and buttoning a shirt.

One of the things that makes Elite Montessori unique is its extremely high adult to child ratio. In the morning five teachers are present, and in the afternoon four teachers are in attendance. The instructors help children move on to other activities and up the ladder once they have mastered something.

Not all of the children’s time is spent working alone. They meet in circles and have playtime where sharing and working together cooperatively is emphasized. Manners and kindness are also stressed.

Are you interested in having a trilingual child? At Elite Montessori your child has the opportunity to learn English, French and Mandarin during the course of a day. Niazi recounts a humorous story about a child who went home and said “Thank you” in Mandarin. Not understanding, and hoping it wasn’t a bad word, the mother discovered her child was now learning manners in another language!

Academic success is high at this busy little centre. From an early age children learn subtraction, addition, how to count and read. Impressively, a four-year-old student already knows how to multiply and can name all the planets.

Elite_Montessori_Academy_Dunbar_LifeElite Montessori is in the midst of an application process to change its status from an occasional care centre to a full-fledged preschool. Currently registrants are only able to attend a maximum of 40 hours a month. Once preschool status is obtained the number of allowable hours per month will increase dramatically. In addition, the business is expanding with the addition of a daycare facility one block away at West 38th and Dunbar Street. Renovations are underway and the daycare will open this fall.

The early days of opening Elite Montessori were a challenge until people took a leap of faith and signed on. Word of mouth referrals have been excellent and the centre is now full in the morning and has a waiting list. And kudos to Dunbar parents, who Niazi describes as “being very educated and respectful.”

You may ask, “How do I decide if this program is right for my child?” Elite Montessori offers a free two-hour trial session.

What does Niazi find most rewarding about her work? She says, “I see children grow every day. I love to see their smiles.” She is also delighted when parents ask their child “How was your day?” and they respond with a grin from ear to ear, “It was awesome!”

Elite Montessori Academy
5520 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6N 1W6
Telephone 604-655-2045

Top Shapes for a Stylish Hedge

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Whether cedar, laurel, yew or boxwood hedge, these hedges can all be shaped into distinct styles. Formal, square hedges are commonly found on West Side properties. Recently, we have noticed a trend toward softer looking rounded corners. Rounded hedges are as tidy in appearance while providing another style option. Let’s look at the top shapes for hedges.

Formal Hedges: straight sides and straight, flat top. A Classic shape borrowed from formal French gardens. Straight sides with a rounded top is a softer variation of the squared off formal hedge.

Pyramidal sides can have either a straight, level top or rounded top edge as well. Also considered formal, the advantage of the pyramidal form is that it allows light to hit the bottom edge of the hedge. The narrower top prevents shading of the lower branches.

Informal hedges take on any shape, yet are easy to keep sheared and tidy. These may be wavy, or follow the natural curves of plants that have grown together over time.

Changing Shapes
In order to change the style of your hedge, please take note. Cedar can only be cut into its green growth, as they just hold 2-3 years worth of needles. This limits the extent to which the shape can be changed.

Yews, English laurel and boxwood will rejuvenate from old wood. Cut a laurel to the ground, and a new hedge will sprout from there. Keep in mind, it can take two to three years for a hedge to fill in after such a hard pruning.

Now you have creative license to get stylish with your hedges.

Jessica Salvador is a Certified Landscape Horticulturist. She runs Higher Ground Gardens with her husband Christian, a Certified Landscape Technician.
Higher Ground Gardens, 778-323-1502

Mother’s Day

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Mothers DayMuch has been said, and should be, about motherhood, one of the primary, most epic of human relationships. Motherhood is the stuff of great literature, of famous works of art, of life itself. And soon we celebrate the role of mothers with little ol’ Mother’s Day.

Funny that many of the greeting card depictions concerning motherhood bear little resemblance to the role itself. When I think of mothers I do not think flower bouquets, velvet ribbons and sweet rhymes found on greeting cards. I think chapped hands, an iron will and management of vast amounts of children’s bodily fluids over the course of many years, which admittedly is difficult material to combine into something Hallmark can make use of. Even ‘speeches’ delivered for mothers often strike me as if written for an entirely different group of people. They all seem to describe someone much gentler and sweeter than myself and many mothers I know.

Motherhood is not a sweet romantic role, but an earthy, practical, sticky one. We get our hands dirty, we carry a lot of things, we feel the life lived by another and we make a lot of sandwiches. A woman who becomes a mother is never completely autonomous again, never really alone in her thoughts or actions.
Mother’s Day is celebrated in sweet little ways at home that can never match the occasion. But weirdly gold spray-painted and glued macaroni can go a surprisingly long way, as can a “surprise breakfast” made of ingredients never before combined on one plate. Practical gifts, such a babysitting or a prepared meal, are most appreciated especially by mothers of young children. For any adult looking to provide for a special mother they know, sleep is the gift of choice. Young mothers are so desperate for sleep they would happily curl up in an aisle of Costco if that meant for some uninterrupted sleep while you shopped with their kids. Funny enough, the person most likely to provide these kinds of practical, “hands-on” services is usually none other than the woman’s mother herself.

The trick to understanding Mother’s Day, or being a mother in general, is the awareness that moments arranged, even contrived, to be lovely and sentimental often are not.

During spring break I witnessed a potentially gorgeous, but ill-fated beach photo shoot of a woman and her two daughters go horribly wrong as the four year old girl melted down big time. The photographer looked exasperated and the beautiful mom crestfallen. I thought they should have taken the photos anyway; they might have become favourites in years to come.

Our family often refers to my famously deflated Mother’s Day moment when one of our daughters in preschool was asked to finish the sentence “I love my mother because…”, the answer to which was then scribed in a large cheerily decorated preschool card and read aloud at a presentation for mothers. Her experienced, older preschool teacher, a mother of grown children, smiled as she read my daughter’s response of

“…because she gave me gum once.”

Maybe it is that simple. Or maybe I really did need to step up my game a bit.

Another Mother’s Day sentimental-moment-gone-wrong occurred with our 12 year old son after his long suffering teacher had done her best to have students produce a beautifully painted trinket box symbolic of their love for their devoted mothers. My tiny wooden box was unveiled having been painted an edgy but not exactly detailed solid matte black because “it was fastest that way.” I inspected it, paint smeared and blobbed on unevenly, and exclaimed “Wow, this is really terrible.” My son looked at me accusingly and said, “Most mothers would never say that to their kid, you know.” And I responded, “Most kids don’t paint their mother’s box completely black to save time.” He held the stare, but then broke down laughing. As we laughed and teased each other I felt as though I could just squish him with love. We still understand each other in this way and that is such a joy.

No, beautiful “Mother’s Day moments” come at unexpected times, as if to reward moms to keep going, because within any random or even horrible moment might be found a gift, an unexpected joy. These moments cannot be orchestrated by the mother. They are provided by life: your child running through the house and stopping to kiss you for no reason, being comforted by your grown child, seeing your children laughing with your parents, watching your child do something you know he is afraid to do.

Heart-wrenching and frightening moments are also impossible to avoid in the mothering experience. Our children’s path to adulthood is often perilous, physically and otherwise, and that can feel worse than if these struggles were our own. The richness a mother feels after weathering her child’s recovery from a serious illness or from difficult events is incomparable. For days after finally receiving a diagnosis and treatment for the aggressive skin infection that was burning, blistering, and bubbling our 3 year old’s entire body, I felt, between my random bursting into tears, waves of utter relief such that nothing else could possibly matter.

Yes, these children stretch our bodies, and then they stretch our hearts, our ability to adapt, our tolerance, our capacity to feel. Thank goodness love is not a material thing and that with the addition of these people and events and the passage of years love multiplies not divides. And so we push on, mothers everywhere, scolding, washing, cuddling, and loving fiercely in a way we never knew possible.

Enjoy the macaroni crafts and the crepe-paper flowers and the unevenly buttered toast handed to you by someone with eyes like your mother’s. Then go telephone your mother, if you are still blessed to have her, and tell her one of your favourite childhood memories of her, even the ridiculously unsentimental ones. Perhaps she gave you gum once.

Let the beautiful moments roll on between bandaids and loads of laundry.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Sue Dvorak, a physiotherapist, her husband Marcel and their six children, aged 12-22, have lived in Dunbar area for over the past 21 years.

Dunbar Community Patrol

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Celebrating 10 Years

Dunbar Community Patrol 10 yearEach year the Dunbar Community Patrol (DCP) holds a social night to thank our patrollers for volunteering their time to help keep our neighbourhood safe. This year’s event, held on February 12 at St. George’s Senior School, was extra special as it was our 10th Anniversary Celebration. Many thanks to St. George’s who generously donated the rental of their spectacular Lower Great Hall and sound system for our party and to everyone who donated money via the Dunbar Neighbours email list. In attendance were patrollers and spouses, Vancouver police officers, and board members of the Dunbar Residents’ Association. The VPD was represented by Inspector Steve Eely, Sergeant Joe Chu, Constable David Krenz and Leah Marlay of Block Watch, and Tony Bulic of the KOM Community Policing Centre. Members of the DRA who attended included President Colleen McGuinness, Jan Alexander, Trusha Desai, Robert Murray, Bill Rapanos and Andrea Sara.

The program began with greetings and a brief history of the DCP by founder and Chairperson, Linda MacAdam. Prizes were then awarded to patrollers for outstanding volunteer service including Certificates of Appreciation for the twelve patrollers who have served all 10 years. This was followed by a brief presentation on Block Watch by Constable David Krenz and Leah Marlay. Inspector Steve Eely and the other VPD officers then answered questions from the audience. At the end of the evening Constable Krenz presented a VPD Certificate of Appreciation to founder MacAdam and a Certificate of Recognition to the DCP. Also presented to our patrollers were Community Policing pins from the VPD.

Adding to the evening’s festivities were the many wonderful prizes donated by our Dunbar businesses, most of which were patroller awards. There were also door prizes for patrollers, spouses, and DRA board members.

Sincere thanks to all the businesses and individuals who kindly and generously donated prizes: Stong’s Market (grand prize), Vibes Fitness, Dunbar Theatre, K & K Pet Foods, Dunbar Lumber, Blight’s Home Hardware, Hair by Dwayne, Domino’s Pizza, IGA MarketPlace, Cheshire Cheese Inn, Pacific Spirits Liquor Store, Shoppers Drug Mart, Christina’s Flower Shop, Gardenia Florist, La Notte Ristorante Italiano, Village VQA Wines, Money’s Dry Cleaning, Moki’s Pizza, Handi Cuisine of India, Butter Baked Goods & Cafe, Digital Photo Station, Dunbar Dairy Queen, Weigh To Go Bulk Foods, Mexicali Restaurant, Beantown Coffee House, Kokopelli Cafe, Dunbar 1 Hr Cleaners, Donald Burton, Susan Chapman, Meredith Kimball, and Colleen McGuinness.

Dunbar Patrol cakeThanks also to Melissa Gaudiel of St. George’s for catering the event. The finger food was supplemented by a special 10th Anniversary cake to celebrate the occasion. The big surprise of the evening was the unveiling of DCP tee shirts donated by Cal Deacon of Action Athletics Wear for each patroller. Action Athletics Wear and Stong’s Market are co-sponsors of our volunteer organization without whom we wouldn’t have vests, caps or tee shirts!

The Dunbar Community Patrol was founded in 2005 as an initiative of the Dunbar Residents’ Association. We are a group of Dunbar residents who volunteer each month to conduct walk or bike patrols and serve as extra eyes and ears for the Vancouver Police.

If you are interested in learning more or volunteering you can leave a phone message at 604-222-9824, send an e-mail message to or visit our webpage at