Sunday, February 28, 2010

A postcard from Steveston

Others may not have been enamoured with the idea of hosting a world-class event, but I felt thrilled that for two weeks, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games held the world's attention, that the name of our city was repeated in multiple languages, and that the beauty of our province was displayed on millions of TV screens across the globe.

To relive that magical time, I decided to pull out and post scenes I captured as we stood on the threshold of this historic event. On February 9, 2010, the torch relay wound its way through the village and my neighbours and I flocked to the intersection of No.1 Road and Steveston Hwy to welcome the flame.

At around 6:00 PM, everyone rushed out

We positioned ourselves at the curb and craned our necks to spot the approaching caravan.

Although it was bone-chillin' cold, we stood rooted to the spot.

Then they came, in quick succession.

The Coke truck

The RBC truck

The truck with the Olympic mascot

And right behind clusters of security personnel, the torch itself

It was over much too quickly but we all felt lucky to have witnessed the procession first hand and the sense of community it awakened in all our hearts. Now, if only we could repeat the whole process all over again...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baby steps led to Heidi's Cookie Creations' success

Heidi surrounded by her signature bouquets

Some people think that success is a matter of luck. Heidi Thorsteinson knows better.

Heidi's home grown custom cookie business was built on solid hard work. She spent five years researching, planning, testing, and refining her cookies to perfection. As her reputation grew – primarily by word of mouth - so did her customer base. This slow and steady process, sometimes measured in small steps, has brought Heidi her own brand of good luck.

How did it all begin?

Heidi was introduced to baking as a child. With the help of her Betty Crocker oven and later her mother's toaster oven, she churned out mini cookies and cakes under the watchful eye of her mom. By the time she reached adulthood, Heidi's repertoire had expanded to include all kinds of cookies –sweet harvests of her labour of love.

Samples of Heidi's baked-to-order cookies

The nudge to graduate from hobby to business happened by chance.

Like other moms who participate actively in her children’s school life, Heidi did her share of doling out orders on food day, transporting students on field trips, and reading stories to foster student literacy. One day, she brought a platter of mini decorated sugar cookies to her children’s pre-school and blew the teachers away. Have you thought of selling them, they asked? Well, the rest is history.

How did it grow?

Like Rome, however, Heidi’s cookie business was not built in a day. It required diligent experimentation to arrive at the right formula for great taste and a flawless look. It chewed up hours of Internet time searching for inspiring ideas. And it also demanded the courage to start charging for her hard-won signature pieces.

“At first I just asked customers to cover the cost of supplies at $2 per cookie. The next order was $2.50 per cookie. Next order was $3 per cookie. Next was a $30 cookie platter. In the beginning it was hard to price myself. I came up with it gradually. It took a lot to say $4 a cookie," says Heidi.

Although she does most of her business in Steveston, Heidi has expanded into North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and beyond the border to Seattle. Her cookies have traveled to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Nova Scotia and an order of her golf course cookies has even gone all the way to a wedding in St. John’s, New Brunswick.

Heidi attributes her success to her quality product and highly personalized service. At Heidi’s Cookie Creations, every batch is baked to order. This Steveston’s small home-based business is poised to win customers over, one cookie at a time.

Lovingly crafted cookies for Valentine's Day

Heidi on the Web

Heidi's business made its debut online on February 17, 2008. Her website was hosted on Steveston Kids' site and provided a great new way to introduce her products to potential customers. So successful was this website that two years since it went live, Heidi decided that it was time to have her own Internet identity with her own URL. She encourages everyone to visit her at her new website at and take a look around.

What’s next?

When asked what’s next on her agenda, Heidi says that she is contemplating marrying two of her passions – cookie creation and event planning – in the form of cookie parties for children.

“All the parents would need to provide is a table with disposable table cloths. I would bring all of my supplies such as pre-made cookies on a stick, terracotta planters, pre-mixed royal icing, sprinkles and other decorating items. I would guide the children in this creative activity. They can make it as nice as they want, as detailed as they want, or as simple as they want,” says Heidi.

Congratulations on your new website and thriving business, Heidi! We hope 2010 will bring you closer to your goal of conquering the world, one delectable bite at a time.

Heidi and daughter Hallie with the the Hearts for Haiti cookies they baked to help victims of last month's devastating earthquake

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Parking in Steveston

When I asked my dear friend Dvora how I could improve this blog, she told me she wanted to know where to park in Steveston.

I could have told her to unfold a map and just eyeball those circled "P"s. But she deserved better than that.

So, I put my visitor's cap on and headed out the door. My mission: to assess the parking situation with fresh eyes. How easy is it to find a spot without a good grasp of the lay of the land.

It turned out that parking rules in Steveston are simple:

1)First of all, parking is free, so you can leave your change at home.

(2)Secondly, although free, parking on the street and in some pubic lots, is limited to two hours (between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM for street parking)

(3)Lastly, if you wish to linger over your cup of latte, you should park in Lot 1 - a gravel lot with enough pot holes to jar every bone in your body. But, consider it a small price to pay for the luxury of meandering through the village unhampered by fear of finding a parking ticket flapping under your wiper.

There are blue signs aplenty to point you to the above lots. In some ways, though, they can lead drivers astray as much as they can guide them to their intended destinations.

For example, this one seems to suggest that Lot 1 is located in front of the G & F Financial Group building. Not so.

This one suggests that Lots 3, 4, 5 are situated at the end of Third Avenue. Actually, it's more like head down the avenue, veer to the left, and keep right on going until you see more blue signs.

To help visitors get their bearing, here are satellite as well as street views of these lots. When viewing the satellite photos, the top of your screen represents north.

Lot 1 satellite view

Lot 1 street view

Lot 3 satellite view

Lot 3 street view

Lots 4 and 5 satellite view

Lot 4 street view

Lot 5 street view

I don't have a clue where Lot 2 is or if it even exists.

Unless specifically prohibited, you are permitted to park in lanes and alleys, as long as you don't obstruct traffic.

If you are not averse to a short walk, you can leave your car at the Steveston Public Library (corner of Moncton Street and No.1 Road). The two hour limit is applicable between 8:00 AM and 11:00 PM, Monday through Friday, but they are pretty laid back about it.

Even further off the main drag is Garry Point Park at the corner of Chatham Street and Seventh Avenue. It provides ample parking, from dawn till dusk, as well as amenities such as picnic tables, benches, washrooms, and a water fountain. The concession stand opens in fair weather and offers Pajo's fish and chips and Timothy's frozen yogurt - two local favourites.

On busy summer weekends, with zero availability in the village, parking tends to spill over to the residential areas. By and large, Stevestonites are pretty accommodating. There are, however, signs that you need to be wary. Here are a few of them:

These signs send an unequivocal message – “no parking” – no ands, ifs, or buts.

I guess that just about wraps it up for now. If you have other parking tips, I can pass them along to my friend Dvora.

No, she doesn’t drive a Hummer and yes, she is a great parallel parker!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Spring arrives (extra) early at Garry Point Park

Back in mid-January, I bemoaned the stillness that hung over Garry Point Park. Instead of greasy balled up napkins, salt and pepper spills, and the occasional smears of ketchup, the picnic tables were covered only with lingering dew drops. The service windows of the concession stand were pulled down as though the building itself had gone into hibernation. Even the crunching sounds under my shoes were hushed, perhaps deferring to the sombre mood of this forgotten corner of the village.

But what a difference three weeks could make!

Saturday, February 6th dawned bright and the temperature climbed to a joyous 10 degrees Centigrade. As though pursuing an invisible pied piper, residents flocked to Garry Point Park - on foot, on wheels, and in buggies.

Pajo's counter was open for business and kids begged, cajoled, and charmed their parents into buying them snacks.

Dogs out on a stroll with their owners approached and sniffed each other, as though trying to get re-acquainted after a long period of separation.

Crows, ever the resourceful scavengers, took up positions so they could snatch leftovers whenever they came into their line of sight.

And the view of the river was worthy of speculations and endless discussions.

Everywhere you turned, the world seemed to be reawakening with colours. Tender blossoms burst forth from branches,

from planters,

and from the earth itself.

Let's hope that the mild and bright days will gain a toehold and remain with us till spring officially starts. We can all use more Pajo days in the park - and the earlier the better - don't you agree?