Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Holiday greeting from Roi the Steveston cat

Merry Christmas to all my furry friends! What are you dreaming to get? Fancy kitty condos with holes, ramps, and ladders? Honeysuckle sticks? Catnip pillows? Fake feathers on a wand? Who has the time and energy.

Me - I like to keep things simple. Just give me my treats - bags and bags and bags of them.

 A meowvelous wish

May your 2019 Christmas be furry and bright!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Steveston's Christmas doors

Have you ever seen those posters of doors from around the world?

With their complementary or monochromatic colors, similar or contrasting construction, modern or traditional materials, unadorned or heavily ornamented presentation, they are a feast to the eyes. When stitched together, they present a stunning canvas that surpasses the beauty of each individual door. I can stare at them endlessly.

Perhaps someday I can develop a collage of various front doors in my neighborhood. It would be fun just to see what the result would look like.

For now, and in keeping with the holiday season, let me leave you with some of the Christmas doors I have walked past in the past few weeks. May they get you in the mood for the fun festivities ahead!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

 Merry Christmas 2019, everyone!

These illustrations are not meant to get you into a panic but to get you in the mood for the holiday season.

Wishing you all the most blessed celebration!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Drawing Steveston houses

This older house of 50+ years is commonly referred to as a Steveston Special. Having been updated by a series of owners, it still holds a lot of charm. Flowers in terracotta pots and a flowerbed also add to its curb appeal.

Summer bliss

Happiness is ... tucking yourself under a Japanese maple tree and raising your nose up to the sun till you have to squint.

Believe me, I'm Roi, the Steveston cat

Monday, November 18, 2019

Drawing Steveston houses

Here's a captivating house I came across on my walks. I like its stately presence and the layered landscaping hugging the front yard. So much so that I decided to include it in my Steveston houses sketchbook.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Drawing houses

As you may know, I find great joy in drawing building facades. I started with those iconic heritage structures around the village such as the Steveston Museum, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Marine Garage, and the Steveston Church thrift shop. Not only do they keep our history alive but they also serve as anchors in times of great change.

Yes, change does happen. Even in our little corner of Richmond.

Lately though, I've decided to capture residential buildings instead. 

Sometimes I thread my way through Steveston streets with my Canon point-and-shoot around my neck; at other times, I clutch nothing but my camera phone in my hand - always on the lookout for that charming house with amateur landscaping in front yard and, may be, a cat sitting in the window.

Well, this turned out be more difficult than I had anticipated. 

As more and more smaller single family dwellings with a decent size front lawn are razed to build monster houses, it takes me twice as long to find those gems.

I suppose I could paint those mansions that seem to be overtaking our neighborhood. However, their lifeless exterior, lack of proportions, false sense of grandeur, and plain scary bristling metal fences just make me want to run away. May be that's the point though. 

Not to be deterred, however, I plan to continue featuring Steveston's more traditional homes in my future posts - at least before they all disappear. So stay tuned! You might just see yours.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Super-served Steveston

Dentists, nail spas, pharmacies, cafes, fitness and health studios, hair salons,  restaurants, shops, and bakeries.

Regardless of where you draw the boundary lines defining the Steveston area (which can be contentious depending on whom you ask), there is no doubt - we Stevestonites lack for nothing to be the best version of ourselves.

This glut of amenities and services practically guarantee that we feel and look epic all the time.

Take the restaurant industry's ever shifting landscape, for example. We see businesses closing their doors only to be resurrected just as quickly under different names. A Greek menu is supplanted by an Italian menu, mounds of gelatos replaced ice cream buckets inside the display freezer, and ornate East Indian decor gave way to the clean minimalist lines of a sushi house interior.

Just count the number of sandwich boards crowding intersection corners and you'll know that, come what may, your taste buds - and the rest of your body - will always remain well pampered.

Which begs the question...

Why oh why can't we have a good greengrocer?

You know, somewhere we can pick up the plumpest summer fruits, the greenest leafy vegetables, and fresh-from-the-earth potatoes that still wear a light dusting of dirt.

I am not asking for anything fancy. Just a stand we can quickly dash in and out of between a yoga class and a hair appointment. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Headphones man

Have you seen him? On colder days, he pounds the pavement in a well worn dark blue trench coat, headphones hugging his ears, sunglasses perched on his nose, a cigarette pressed between his lips and - sometimes -an opaque plastic bag containing undiscernable items dangling from his hand. On warmer days, he maintains his rigorous walk with lighter clothing but retaining the accessories that have defined him, at least to me, as the neighborhood extreme walker.

Sometimes he chuckles, as though responding to a joke being fed through his headphones. At other times, he appears pensive, even grim. But he never lingers in one spot. He appears just like a resident out on a stroll.

And stroll he does - seemingly for hours on end. 

I have run errands which took me to various destinations around Richmond for three and four hours at a time and seen him multiple times, on different streets, with purposeful steps  - never ceasing to look ahead, never stopping to rest. 

I hope he does find refuge now and then to put up his feet. Especially when inclement winter weather sets in. I hope someone, somewhere, can direct him to a protective shelter - from the sun in the summer, the snow in the winter, and everything else in between. 

I bet, though, commuting on foot has given him access to some of the most amazing things about our neighborhood - things that you easily miss when you cover the same distance by car, bicycle, or bus.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Neighbourhood houses:
Ode to the traditional family home

This Steveston gem is one of my favorites 
On my customary walks through Steveston's quiet streets, I cherish the smaller unpretentious single family homes. 

In the shadows of the over-sized newcomers on the block, they appear better proportioned to the lot they occupy. Instead of exuding pretentiousness, they appear cozy, inviting, and well, just plain friendly. They practically beckon you in for a neighbourly cup of tea.

In the summer, I envision herbs growing in the kitchen window; in the winter, I imagine a blanket-draped couch beside a roaring fire.

Some of the owners have obviously invested considerable effort in upgrading their property's curb appeal. Diligently manicured grass, wooden ties cuddling clusters of flowering bushes, and strategically planted trees that shade us all in the summer and reveal bird nests in the winter - they just seem to say, hey, stop and enjoy my handiwork.

While meditating on the charms of tiny older homes, you might even spot butterflies, raccoons, squirrels, domesticated cats, and even hummingbirds on iridescent wings - local wildlife that add so much to our lives in the village.

I personally can't say the same for those monster houses. Can you?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Coffee corner - Rocanini in Steveston

The name Rocanini always sounds so sophisticated to me. so Italian. So chic.

This elevated impression was confirmed when I spotted their siphon coffee maker behind the counter. One day, I decided that this was one item I needed to add and quickly cross off my bucket list. Just like that.

Yes, the barista took longer but watching the process of getting your coffee made was entertaining. And the taste - made it so worthwhile. So rich. So full body. Without any need for cream or sweetener.

My mistake was drinking my cup of coffee late in the day and that night, I found myself tossing and turning. Since then, I usually schedule my Rocanini treat for no later than eleven o'clock in the morning. 

Of course, others have also been smitten by the pastries on offer, the long community table, the more intimate clusters of table and chairs, and comfy upholstered chairs. You can tell from the crush of humanity on weekends and the number of individuals hunched over their laptops, it's a local favorite.

Although you are facing away from the mighty Fraser, Rocanini patrons get a commanding view of our nautical themed scramble intersection, the Steveston historic tram nestled in its protective structure across the street, and the parade of pedestrians, cars, and cyclists streaming past in their delicate dodge-and-dart dance.

So pick a good spot and let your eyes and mind wonder. Just don't forget to take a sip of your coffee now and then - before it gets cold.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's a cats' world

Stevestonites love their dogs. On any given day (but especially on warm sunny days) you can see our best friends sauntering beside their owners on the riverfront promenade, sniffing and snuffling every dusty bush on the dyke, lapping up water in metal bowls in front of village stores, or straining their pole-wrapped leashes while waiting for their absent masters.

Yep. No doubt about it. Dogs reign on the well traveled routes in our neighborhood.


When you take the quieter corners and cul de sacs, you will soon discern that cats rule the backwaters. In the soothing whispers of tree leaves, seductive dances of undulating grasses, and crisp scents of well tended private gardens you find them - sometimes well hidden but at other times, boldly out in the open, as they survey their domain with their characteristic self-assured pomposity.

Their sightings seem to spark a sense of wonder, even privilege, on the part of the observer. Indeed, the cats themselves appear to remind us that such moments are not to be taken lightly - with their cool stares, their upturned Roman nose, and their disappearance just as you whip out your camera phone.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Walking - with or without shoes

I remember a man who always cut a distinctive figure around Richmond (including Steveston) - not so much for his long, wispy grey hair, nor his clothing that didn't quite match the seasons, but for his bare feet.

For years, he could be seen on the streets - with no protective footwear - treading on sizzling sidewalks in the summer and freezing footpaths in the winter as though inured to discomfort and pain.

Observing him from afar, I thought he appeared determined to get somewhere fast. There was an intensity to his stride as he hurried to his destination.

Then one day, much to my surprise and relief, he started wearing shoes. 

Nothing else had changed. He still looked and behaved pretty much the same. Except his feet were cushioned against the earth. I bet there was quite a story behind this happy change. However it has been months since I have seen him - with or without shoes - and the story may never be revealed any time soon.

In the meantime, I am keeping my fingers crossed that all is well with him and a brighter future awaits him wherever he may be.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tutus, tulle, and tiaras

Girls must have this universal love of diaphanous gossamer-thin skirts and dresses - which is why they like to don tutus or princess costumes - even over their leggings and t-shirts. 

Despite recent efforts to rethink traditionally accepted gender characteristics, there is one immutable fact - most girls seem to gravitate towards frothy fabrics gathered at the waist, preferably dotted with sparkling rhinestones. Some even ramp up the glam factor with glittering tiaras and beribboned wands.

Of course, ballet - with its sumptuous costumes - has ignited the public imagination and remained popular since its creation in the 15th century. There is just something about pulling your hair severely up in a bun, slipping into a pair of soft leather slippers (or satin pointe shoes, as the case may be), and wriggling into a pancake tutu that makes every girl feel like a prima ballerina - whether she is practicing at a studio barre or just walking in the mall.

the next time you find yourself in a kid-friendly zone, take a look around. You would be amazed at the number of princesses- and ballerinas-in-training, in attire if not in real life.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Merry but a little less bright

Christmas 2018, like other Christmases past, was beautiful in Steveston.

Trees in Steveston Park donned their brilliant robes and shop windows and doors wore garlands of twinkling LED's in seasonal colours. Just walking around the village awakened a sense of anticipation for the upcoming big day and of course, the accompanying urgency and panic to get as much done as possible before its arrival.

But hark, what happened to the banners made of crisscrossing mesh of lights that used to drape over Moncton Street? Why were they so conspicuously absent. I had always loved that sensation of moving through the brilliant tunnel they formed. It raised a local awareness of - and appreciation for - Steveston as a fishing village.

I don't know why they were phased out and hope that the tradition will be rekindled in 2019. After all, you can't get too many Christmas displays and this one was very specific to our village.

Otherwise, Steveston will be just another postcard-pretty place .

Monday, August 5, 2019

Buddy's outing

Not Buddy - to protect Buddy's identity
When my husband agreed to walk our neighbour's dog while they took a vacation, I thought it would be fun to tag along.

After all, who could resist images of Lassie roaming the hills and Rover dashing into the bushes to retrieve a branch or tennis ball.


This was what I found out instead-

This dog was:

Full of nervous energy - totally unchanneled 
Drawn to every upright structure, from power and phone poles to tree trunks and - of course - fire hydrants; In fact, any random object in its path was worthy of further sniffing and exploration
Perpetually in need of urinating - at each of the above; marking your territory was one thing, but repeating the whole exercise on the way back - even when there was nothing left in the bladder to empty - was downright obsessive

What was initially estimated to be a brisk 20-minute walk stretched out to a one-hour event.

Which made me wonder, was this behaviour peculiar to this dog or was it characteristic of all dogs?

Regardless of the answer, however, I congratulated myself on having wisely chosen to share my life with a cat instead. With his regal cool demeanor, discrete bathroom behaviour, and fierce sense of independence, he is the very embodiment of a picture-perfect low-maintenance pet.

I mean, there is just no comparison.

Let me know if you agree...

Monday, July 29, 2019

Coffee corner - Starbucks in Steveston

Starbucks in Steveston

On my earlier post, I had mentioned Steveston's love affair with coffee - and our coffee vendors. They are all eager to offer us delicious cuppa java. Latte. Americano. Or whatever highly customized caffeine fix you love.

In my travels though, one corner stands out as a coffee haven - where No.1 Road and Bayview intersect to be exact.

When it comes to premium real estate, you can't beat Starbucks ideal location. Not only does it provide a comfortable inside seating but its customer-friendly chairs and tables spill out to a spacious patio overlooking the Fraser River promenade and an unobstructed view of pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and pets on leashes.

In the winter, you can seek refuge under its  heaters with a hand-warming cup of coffee; in the summer, you can hide under its sun umbrellas with a splash of refreshing smoothie. And, of course, you can always count on Starbucks signature sweet and savoury treats.

Judging from repeat customers inside and outside its premises, you can't help but think that Starbucks is a popular go-to-place for caffeine, chats, and creature comforts.

We all have our favorites, of course, and the number of coffee shops around the village attest to the wide range of local preferences. And they all deserve to be featured on this blog.

In the meantime, let us know where you go for your caffeine fix. It will be interesting to know why you choose one over the others. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Of books and boots

If you ever walk on Moncton Street, between Bare Basics and A Monkey Tree, you will catch a glimpse of a preschool and learning centre with lots of curb appeal.

With an overhead sign stating "With Our Own Two Hands" - and displaying splatters of children's hand prints  - you know there is serious playing and learning going on inside.

Just inside the fence you can sometimes observe youngsters engaged in various activities. It's a rousing scene where sunshine, laughter, shrieks, and sparkling conversations simply explode into the air. Yes, nothing brightens one's mood like the exuberance of children at play. Just looking at them can pep you up, regardless of your age, gender, and general disposition.

A glass covered bookcase sitting outside the fence intrigues me. Are the books tucked inside for sharing with the community at large - on an honour system - or...? 

And the charming boot planters lined up next to the "library" conjure up images of plump young hands digging into dirt and patting seedlings into place.

It harks back to the days when your own ankle biters had enriched your life even as they generated endless work and sleepless nights. Ah the magic of parenthood.

You walk away feeling blessed and thankful for these bright moments. They are like gems strewn in our paths, waiting to be discovered. If only we take the time to look for - and embrace - them.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Walking with dogs

Image by stinne24 from Pixabay

Dogs are incredibly strong creatures. I found this out while accompanying a friend who owns a dog walking business. 

I agreed to take charge of a small poodle. After all, how much trouble could it be? Just a leisurely stroll on the promenade with my bestie, I thought.


Right out of the gate - literally - I was dragged onto the flagstone path. It was all I could do to keep a firm grasp on the leash that was stretched beyond taut. I bounded forward in fits and starts, half dragged on my lagging heels, but mostly just tugged along by the dog's tide of restless energy. I was nothing more than a movable anchor that created friction and an unwelcome drag to the singleminded pooch.

No wonder my friend books regular visits with her registered massage therapist - to soothe her muscles and mend her joints.

Since then, I have developed a deep respect for dog walkers, especially those with multiple clients. How do they untangle their legs from so many leashes and control canines that constantly pull away in different directions? And how do they clean up to prevent others from stepping in the mess that inevitably gets left behind?

However you manage, kudos to you all. Keep calm and carry on with your do-si-do doggie dance. 

The rest of us will just stand on the sidelines and cheer you on.

Monday, July 8, 2019

B&P Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

Remember growing up with various posters promoting the universal appeal of combining cream and/or milk, sugar, and eggs?

As though it was ever necessary. 

No one, even those afflicted with lactose intolerance, could resist a tempting scoop perched on a crunchy cone.

And if you ever walk or drive past B&P ice cream in Steveston, you know this is true.

A long line of people, big and small, young and old, would snake towards the order window. Most of them judiciously use the wait time to scan the list of treats on the wall or sandwich board. The shop's offerings appear to be growing all the time. Last time I looked, B&P has branched out to bubble tea and shave ice.

But never fear, their mind-boggling selection is nicely paired with budget-friendly prices.

But the best thing about B&P ice cream is the warm and engaging staff. As they all bear a striking resemblance to one another, you can't help but conclude that it is a family owned business -which would explain their gold-star customer service standard.

My favorite is the durian ice cream on a plain waffle cone. I know, it's not for the faint of heart - with its overwhelming signature scent that seems to cling to your breath longer than it should. My husband, on the other hand, stays well away - preferring to stick with the (yawn...) more traditional flavours.

Regardless of your preferences, however, B&P is a great place to cool down, especially on those hot and sticky summer days. Yes, you have to join the long line that sometimes stretches all the way to the sidewalk, but it will be worth it.

I promise.

While you are at it - give the durian ice cream a go. Come on, you know you want to!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Richmond Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store

Here's a building that has reinvented itself many times over.

And yet, despite multiple transformations, it has remained relevant and central to the community it serves.

This heritage structure was, first and foremost, connected to a place of worship. My husband, a native Stevestonite, even recalled spending time there as a preschooler though he was short on details (let us know if you have similar recollections). More recently, it was home to a bicycle store where you could purchase new bicycles or get yours tuned up, fixed, and restored by expert technicians. Since then, it has been re-purposed as a thrift shop offering donated goods to budget-conscious shoppers.

But what pleases me the most about the structure is its down-to-earth welcoming exterior. The front lawn is pleasantly carpeted with green grass with islands of flowering bushes that cuddle and jostle together for space and attention. If their profusion and vibrant colours do not qualify as eye candy, I don't know what is. 

At one time, there were posted signs, in ornate cursive handwriting (remember that?) identifying the plethora of plant life on display and inviting passersby to be extra cautious lest they accidentally trample on the nodding buds and blooms.

Should your footsteps ever lead you to the corner of Chatham Street and Second Avenue, linger awhile and take in the rich history and beauty of this heritage building. Then go in, meet the cadre of red-smocked volunteers, and browse to your heart's content. You might just pick up a piece of history from someone's attic or basement!

OpenClipartVectors from Pixabay

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Looking down

People always laugh at me when they observe me from afar. "You look so low just staring at the ground." Or, "Hey, it doesn't hurt to look at up now and then." Some even say that my posture suggests a low self esteem. Who knew?

If truth be told, although I don't look down primarily for serendipitous gains, I have come upon mini treasures on my walks. I picked up a beautiful bracelet (with a faulty clasp) right at the entrance to the cruise ship terminal in downtown Vancouver. Then there was the time when I found a sparkling "diamond" studded charm at the door of a Richmond Centre jewelry store. And yes, I even managed to pluck a $20 bill off the frozen ground at the Vancouver Christmas Market. Amazing, right?

But looking down pays off in more ways than the occasional cash and trinkets. It can also delight your eyes, nourish your soul, and feed your community spirit.

Have you noticed the display of landscaping artistry around our neighbourhood? Especially in the spring when mother nature slowly awakens, and in the summer when she lays out her bounty at your feet, you can feast your eyes on strategically placed stonework, ornamental fences, and clusters of budding bushes. Add to these the riotous explosion of seasonal colours and scents and you'll feel swept up in the swirl of life unleashing.

Look at these examples and tell me if you agree:

In the meantime, I will keep on looking down. You should too!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Thirsting for refreshment

Locals rejoice!

It's summer and, at the corner of Steveston Hwy and No.1 Road, you have even more choices in hydration stations.

Of course, you are already aware of 7-11's signature Slurpees - multi-colored streams of flavoured ice crystals that kids love to catch in plastic cups, usually to overflowing. And, just across the street, Dairy Queen serves up Blizzards to calm customers' craving for thicker textured treats.

But hold on! A new kid just jumped into the ring. It's Boba Boy! Making a splash with offerings of milk tea, specialty slush and smoothies, fruit tea, and lattes. Since grand opening time in April, the shop has been abuzz with chattering teens and the clickety clacks of laptop keys.

Amidst such plenty, there will not be a single thirsty Stevestonite left behind! And that's a great reason to rejoice!