The holidays are in full swing and the countdown to Christmas has officially begun! For many of you, this time of year means decorating your house, shopping for gifts, and doing lots of baking. Christmas is such a wonderful time of year and is full of joy and making memories. Of course, there are usually a lot of holiday parties to attend as well as other concerts or other events that are part of the season’s tradition, which means that you’re probably busy. Even if you’re feeling a little bit over-stretched, it’s important to remember that the holiday season should be a time of giving, whether it’s to friends, family, or people that you don’t know in your community.
This holiday season consider how you can give back to your community. Next time you’re at the grocery store stocking up your pantry, grab extra cans of food and consider how you can help stock someone else’s pantry, too. Local food banks are always in great need during the holiday season, as many families simply can’t afford to put a full meal on the table. Or, if you’d rather do something more hands-on, look into local organizations that serve meals to the homeless in the city, or make and hand out care packages to people that you see on the street. There are also several local organizations that help serve pregnant teenagers or young mothers that are struggling. Donating clothing, formula, baby food, or diapers is a great way to help families with young children that are having a hard time for paying those things. Or, maybe you see a need right within your family. Do you have an estranged family member or a friend that is alone this holiday season? Reach out to them and share the love and hope that is part of Christmas!
From my family to yours, I wish you a very merry Christmas! May you be reminded of the hope of the season!
On any given day, you can walk into the Windermere Room at the Children’s Justice Center in Vancouver and see boys and girls playing and enjoying life, just like any other child. What you might not know is that this center and the play room especially, is a safe haven for children that have been victims of criminal-level abuse. Non-offending family members can bring their children here and get valuable and necessary assistance to address incidents of child abuse. The Children’s Justice Center (CJC) is nationally accredited as a Children’s Advocacy Center and employs a team of well-trained and experienced responders to come together and help the children that have been victims of crime. Staff helps provide health services for child victims of abuse, while also working with agencies and jurisdictions to hold felony criminals and perpetrators accountable by prosecuting through the law and judicial system. CJC staff works with the following agencies in Vancouver on a regular basis:
-YWCA Sexual Assault Program
-City of Vancouver
-Washington State Department of Children and Family Services and the Children’s Center
These agencies, along with the CJC, seek the truth and continually work to protect the rights of victims during investigations. For the last several years, Windermere has been proud to host fundraising events and match funds from the Windermere Foundation to help the Children’s Justice Center. To see the room and how it’s helping kids learn and become happy, well-adjusted children, watch this short video.
If you’ve been in Vancouver for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard about or seen events happening at Esther Short Park. Conveniently located in the heart of the city, Esther Short Park is the “go-to” place for concerts, The Farmer’s Market, and festivals. It’s the oldest public square in the state of Washington and it’s a true gem! It was established in 1853 and its five acres includes a lovely rose garden, a large children’s playground, a 69-foot bell/clock tower, the historic Slocum House, a large green space and stage, and a large fountain system that is popular with kids in the warm summer months.
Who was Esther Short?
Esther Short lived in Vancouver with her husband Amos & their 10 kids. They “jumped a claim” near the present-day downtown area of Vancouver – the land was part of a larger area of land that was owned by American Henry Williamson. When he left for California, he left his caretaker David Gardner in charge of the land. Gardner and Amos Short began arguing over the land and Short killed Gardner, but was later acquitted of any crime. Short became a judge and claimed the disputed land for himself, but shortly after that died in a shipwreck on his way back from San Francisco. Esther Short filed paperwork to claim the land and eventually got part of the land (present-day Esther Short Park). She also owned land that is now part of the Port of Vancouver.
In the 1990s, the downtown area in general was on the decline and Esther Short Park was known for being a home to transients. It was messy and not maintained, and there was a lot of drug activity that was going on in the park. The crime rate was high there and there were a lot of 911 calls that originated from the park. However, George Propstra saw potential for the park. He donated $2 million to help improve it, then donated $1.3 million to build the bell tower. In addition, when Royce Pollard began work as the mayor of Vancouver in 1996, part of his city revitalization project included a revamp of Esther Short. The park received $5.67 million in direct aid and $220 million of capital funding. This money allowed for redevelopment of the park and the surrounding area and Pollard began hosting a series of events that showed that the park was now a great area to bring families. It took a while to rebrand the park’s image, but in time, it has been transformed into a great public area. In 2013, it was even named as one of the nation’s “10 great public spaces” by the American Planning Association.
Have you been to Esther Short lately? If not, check it out! The park is a busy place! Families and individuals from all parts of Vancouver frequent the space – whether it’s just for a simple picnic on the green space or for gathering locally grown fruits and veggies at the weekly Farmer’s Market.
We’ve made it to our final installment in our series of “must-knows” about Vancouver! Here are the final three things that everyone should know about Vancouver!
Vancouver is great for kids!
If you have kids, there is no shortage of awesome things for kids to do. On those warm days of summer, head to Esther Short Park and let them frolic in the water fountain area. And that’s just one of the great parks in the area! There are a lot of great, well-kept parks in neighborhoods all over Vancouver. Or, on those chillier fall or winter days, take them to locally owned Kazoodles to pick out some new games or other activities to keep them occupied. The Vancouver Parks & Recreation Department also has some great activities and clubs for kids to get involved in – whether it’s soccer, swimming, or ballet, there’s something for every age!
The Arts District is pretty awesome.
The Pacific Northwest is home to some pretty amazingly creative people. In recent years, we’ve seen some great Vancouver area artists and musicians establish themselves in galleries and other venues across the city. Check out some of the artist booths at the local Farmer’s Market each week, as well as First Friday every month. Vancouver has some incredible artistic talent that you will love seeing and learning about!
Vancouver is great at celebrating the 4th of July.
If you love fireworks and celebrating Independence Day, then Vancouver is the place to be. The Fort Vancouver National Historic site puts on a pretty awesome fireworks show every year with food, live music, and more. But if crowds aren’t really your thing, then you can buy a pretty fantastic selection of fireworks to do at home. So, grab some friends and family, get the grill out, and when the sun goes down, get ready to make some big noise with those fireworks!
Now, we continue on in our series of what makes Vancouver a unique city. The next four items showcase some of the wonderful parts about living in the city.
#1: Vancouver is a beer lover’s paradise.
If you love craft beer, Vancouver has an eclectic mix of beers for you to try. The annual Vancouver Brewfest draws beer connoisseurs from all over the county. There are also a few local breweries that have popped up in recent days, such as Heathen Brewing and Dirty Hands Brewing Company. IPAs, Porters, Blondes, or Ambers – Vancouver offers a range of beers that exemplify the unique flavors of Vancouver.
#2: Farm-fresh fruit & veggies abound at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market.
One of the best parts about living in the Pacific Northwest is the beautiful scenery that surrounds us. Mountains, beaches, and beautiful farming fields are all over. And when the warm summer months kick into high gear, farm-fresh produce abounds at the local Farmer’s Market. There is truly nothing like fresh, local berries or veggies straight from the farm to your table.
#3: Outdoor concerts are everywhere!
When the weather is warm, music lovers everywhere can find outdoor concerts all over the city. The local Farmer’s Market offers music every weekend, Esther Short often hosts a summer concert series, and even other parks in Camas and other surrounding areas have outdoor concerts that are free to the public. Get ready to rock!
#4: It’s bicycle heaven!
Bicycling enthusiasts, get ready. There are mountain biking trails all over that you can explore. If you’re more of a city person, there are trails that take you all around the sites of the city, too. The Vancouver waterfront, Larch Mountain, and Burnt Bridge Creek Trail are just some of the examples of great trails to that are perfect for riding. Get in gear and start pedaling!
Vancouver is a unique city. It often gets bypassed as insignificant because of its proximity to Portland and it has some fantastic features! If you want to know a little bit more about Vancouver, I'll be doing a little blog series on the “must know” items about the city. Here are the first 5!
#1: Enjoy the tax savings.
If you’re considering moving to Vancouver, guess what? You’ll save a little bit of money on taxes. Even though Vancouver has sales tax, there is no state income tax, which means you’ll save big bucks when it comes to tax time. So, if you want to save for a European vacation, buy a recreational vehicle to cruise the country, or if you just want to pay off your student loan debt a little faster, consider how Vancouver can put a little more money in your pocket.
#2: It's not Canada.
Vancouver is definitely not as big as some other cities in the world and it often gets overlooked because of its close proximity to Portland. And yes, it shares its name with the well-known city in Canada, but it’s definitely not the same. So, next time someone is talking about Vancouver, save yourself the confusion and try to clarify which city is being discussed – Vancouver U.S.A or Vancouver, B.C.?
#3: Vancouver has breathtaking scenery.
If you’re a person that loves to experience the great outdoors, Vancouver could be the perfect place for you! In Vancouver, you’re in short driving distance of the coast, the mountains, rivers, and much more. Vancouver definitely doesn’t have the “hustle and bustle” of a large city, and it definitely doesn’t make you feel trapped in a jungle of buildings and concrete – instead, it’s charming, full of trees and greenery, and offers wonderful activities for nature lovers of all ages.
#4: Vancouver is laid back.
Looking for a great place to sit back and enjoy life? Vancouver is casual and people here generally aren’t showy or pretentious about their city. Don’t want to wear a suit and tie every day? That’s ok, it’s laid back enough here that most places prefer casual clothing and laid back attitudes more than stiff formalities.
#5: It's a coffee-lover's paradise.
Love coffee? Well, Vancouver will rock your world. There is so much great coffee in the Northwest and Vancouver is home to some awesome coffee shops. Some of the best shops to try are: Paper Tiger Coffee, River Maiden Artisan Coffee, Torque Coffee Roasters, and Thatcher’s Coffee. Make it a Saturday morning ritual to try a new coffee house!
Have you recently moved to Vancouver and aren’t sure what places are good to eat? Or, maybe you’ve lived in Vancouver for years and you’re just looking to branch out a little bit and try a few new restaurants. There are some fantastic restaurants in the area that are highlighted below. So get out there and start enjoying the fantastic cuisine at these restaurant spots!
1905 Main Street
This café, deli, and wine shop is really something special! The restaurant is small and gets crowded quickly – for good reason! They specialize in fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and make everything from scratch. Their wine list is extensive and there are a variety of different things in their deli and freezer case for you to choose from if you want to stop in and grab something to cook at home later. They also have regular wine dinner events, which can be a fun thing to do with a group of friends. You’ll find a great selection on the menu, but here’s a hint on a must try: the smoked mushroom ravioli is to die for.
2520 Columbia House Blvd., Suite 108
Located conveniently off Hwy 14 at Grand Central, you’ll find a restaurant with a sustainable approach to cooking. The scintillating scent of a blazing wood fire oven greets guests as they walk into Lapellah’s classy interior. The chef’s menu offers classic plates given the wood-fired treatment. Start with freshly baked flatbread accompanied with rich and smoky spinach and artichoke dip, then graduate to a generous piece of brick oven roasted Alaskan halibut. The wine list features a fine selection of Northwest bottles along with some affordable offerings from the Old World.
Three Sixty Kitchen & Bar
3425 Southeast 192nd Avenue
This pizzeria is known for its original creations inspired by local ingredients or trips to distant places of the world as well as more classic dishes inspired by older generations. If you’re a meat lover, the roasted marrow bones with chimichurri, house pickles, and a grilled baguette is a unique item that will tickle the palate. Another definite must try is the pizza with house-made Italian sausage, crimini mushrooms, roasted peppers & garlic, with grilled onions. Yum!
213 W. 11th Street
Love Thai food? This is a great place to indulge in the beauty & flavor of Thai food. This place has a great, affordable happy hour menu with lots of sushi options. The edemame is a fantastic appetizer choice, then enjoy a hearty dish of pad Thai or chicken curry. There are a lot of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options here, too!
801 Washington Street
Get a little taste of tropical living here while enjoying some outstanding island-style cuisine such as fish tacos, pesto mahi mahi, slow-cooked Kahlua pork, or a fresh veggie stirfry. They also offer a great sushi menu and the happy hour menu is full of great food for just $5 and under. They have live music on regular occasions and offer a great cocktail list including the traditional mai tai and mango margaritas.